Alzheimer’s Society accused of using NDAs to ‘silence bullied staff’

Alzheimer’s Society is under investigation amid allegations that the charity has spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on payouts to 'bullied' staff who agreed to sign non-disclosure agreements.

An exclusive article published by The Guardian over the weekend accused the charity of spending as much as £750,000 on payouts and using NDAs to ‘silence’ staff who made allegations of workplace bullying and a ‘toxic management culture’.

The charity said it has a 'zero tolerance of bullying' and ‘strongly refutes’ the figure of £750k, but stated it had used settlement agreements for ‘legitimate reasons’.

A whistleblower told The Guardian the charity’s chief executive, Jeremy Hughes had an ‘explosive temper’ and showed bullying behaviour towards staff.

It was alleged that many problems arose when staff attempted to make complaints about bullying and poor workplace culture, but were met with criticism and a “culture of fear”.

Hughes: 'Deeply concerned'

However, Hughes said he is "deeply concerned" by the allegations and that he "champions a positive workplace culture, expecting high performance of all to make a difference for people affected by dementia". He made the statement on Twitter over the weekend, but his account has since been made private.

The Guardian's exposé comes just months after Hughes announced he would be stepping down from the charity.

His resignation came shortly after a Twitter page was created by anonymous Alzheimer’s Society employees to share ‘significant concerns about the charity’s leadership’, which has since been removed. The charity denied there was any connection between the two.

It has since been announced that Hughes will join The Samaritans as its new CEO in April this year and that he will be replaced by CLIC Sargent CEO, Kate Lee.

Charity Times has invited The Samaritans to comment.

Regulator: ‘We should have followed up on the complaint’

The Charity Commission was notified of the complaint made against the charity in February 2018, but failed to follow up on it and did not notify the charity of the complaint.

In a statement following the publication of The Guardian’s article, the regulator said the complaint detailed ‘concerns about the charity’s approach to dealing with staff grievances, including the extent to which the trustee board was aware of and overseeing decisions appropriately’.

“Whilst this was at a time when the volume of cases coming into us was high, nevertheless we should have followed up on the complaint, and that did not happen.

“We acknowledge that in failing to follow up on the complaint at the time, we did not meet the high standards we set ourselves, and which the public rightly expect. We are now looking into the matter.”

Alzheimer’s Society: 'We have a zero-tolerance of bullying'

In a statement published over the weekend, Alzheimer’s Society said it has a ‘zero tolerance of bullying and discrimination’ and that it takes the allegations ‘very seriously’.

The charity’s director of people and organisational development said the charity was not aware of the complaint made to the Charity Commission until it was contacted by The Guardian.

“We are following this up directly with the Charity Commission, as we take these allegations very seriously and have a zero tolerance of bullying and discrimination," she said.

“We strongly refute the figure of £750k quoted for settlements. We have only used settlement agreements for legitimate reasons and only where other options for resolution have been explored. We regularly review all our processes, involving our Employee Forum in this.”

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