Majority of Amnesty senior leaders made redundant amid claims of 'toxic workplace'

Human rights charity Amnesty International is set to lose the majority of its senior leadership team after a report claimed the charity housed a “toxic” workplace.

The charity’s secretary general, Kumi Naidoo ordered an independent review into the organisation’s culture and workplace after two employees committed suicide last year.

The review, published in February, described the organisation as having a “toxic workplace”, which consists of “secrecy and mistrust”.

Following the publication of the review, this month five of seven people in the senior leadership team accepted responsibility and offered to resign from their roles.

According to The Times, the senior leaders, which are based primarily between London and Geneva, are now believed to have left, or be in the process of leaving, Amnesty and are set to receive “generous” redundancy packages.

The review and subsequent action follows the death of Gaëtan Mootoo, who killed himself in Amnesty's Paris offices in May 2018. He left a note talking of stress and overwork.

Just over a month later, Rosalind McGregor, who was a British intern working at Amnesty’s Geneva office, committed suicide at her family home.

An inquiry into her death found it was a result of ‘personal reasons’, the BBC reported, but McGregor’s family claimed Amnesty could have done more to care for her mental health.

Hundreds of Amnesty staff were questioned as part of the review, many of which gave examples of bullying they had experienced or witnessed by managers within the organisation.

There were found to be a number of accounts of discrimination based on race, gender and sexuality and the word ‘toxic’ was used to describe the workplace on a number of occasions, the report revealed.

The news comes amid widespread concern about bullying and harassment within the charity sector as a whole.

Charity leaders’ membership body ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health are just two of the organisations collaborating on research into the sector to try and establish how charities can improve their workplace cultures.

The project, Leading safe cultures: eliminating workplace bullying in charity leadership, aims to understand the conditions in which bullying occurs in the charity sector, its effects on individuals and why bullying can continue for significant periods of time unchecked.

It has been funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of a wider programme called ‘Protecting people from harm’, which was launched in response to reports of sexual exploitation within the third sector last year.

“Bullying unfortunately occurs in all kinds of workplaces; it is not a problem specific to the charity sector,” ACEVO chief executive Vicky Browning said.

“However, in order to address it effectively within our sector we need to shine a light on it. This self-reflection will not always be comfortable but it is necessary to build a stronger sector, and more importantly to ensure the wellbeing of the staff and volunteers without whom charities would be unable to achieve their mission."

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