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Charity's chief executives and board slammed by employment tribunal

This news post is over 2 years old

Former chief executive was unfairly forced out the role

Trustees and the current chief executives of a sexual abuse charity have been labelled as not credible, disingenuous and evasive by a judge at an industrial tribunal.

Alison Tait, former Break the Silence chief executive, won £17,000 after the judge found she had been unfairly forced out her job.

Tait resigned after being told that she would have to share her role with another employee and that she was being investigated over a number of unclear allegations.

Peter O’Donnell, the employment judge, criticised the charity’s handling of the situation, saying “this was a case of seeking to find as much as they could to criticise the claimant whether there was grounds to do so or not”.

Employment solicitor Lucinda Hunter, who represented Tait, said: “Whilst our client takes satisfaction that her position was vindicated by the tribunal, she is saddened by the fact that due to the stance of the charity’s management she had to pursue matters this far.

“This resulted in valuable resources being diverted from the support of the vulnerable women that the charity was set up to protect.”

Tait had been with the charity since 2006 and was made CEO in 2015.

Trouble began in August 2019 when chair Marilyn Cairns and vice-chair Lynn Burns met with the organisation’s current joint CEOs Lesley Craig and Sharon Belshaw and decided a co-CEO role would be filled by Craig.

Despite being off on sick leave, Tait was then suspended with an independent legal firm appointed to carry out an investigation.

However Tait was never informed about her suspension and only knew when she received a letter from a law firm detailing an investigation into claims of mismanagement, which the tribunal found the charity had provided no evidence of.

Tait resigned from her post on September 27 after receiving the letter.

She told the tribunal that she felt forced to resign following the unexpected creation of the co-CEO role, her suspension, and the investigation by the law firm.

Judge O’Donnell said “any manager who was in charge of an organisation would consider that they had been as good as demoted if they were told that they were to have their responsibilities and authority shared with someone who, until that point, had been their deputy”.

He added that the board’s decision to suspend Tait, and her never being informed of that decision, “does not reflect well on the charity and those individuals involved”.

He described Cairns as “not credible”, Burns as “evasive” and said that both Craig and Ms Belshaw (the charity’s current co-CEOs) were “disingenuous”.



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