CBI fires ‘a number of people’ in abuse inquiry

Brian McBride

Brian McBride: we made errors

The CBI has fired “a number of people” as it admits failing to protect its staff from sexual misconduct.

In an open letter to all its members, the lobby group’s president Brian McBride said it had detected “regressive and in some cases abhorrent attitudes” to female colleagues. 

As it battles to survive the scandal, he admitted the CBI “attracts many of the brightest, most energetic and capable people in the country.  But, as we have learned, it sometimes attracts the wrong people too.”

He added: “We tried to find resolution in sexual harassment cases when we should have removed those offenders from our business. In retrospect, this last point was our most grievous error, which led to a reluctance amongst women to formalise complaints.” 

His comments came after a weekend when some of Britain’s biggest businesses, including NatWest, Aviva and John Lewis, to quit the CBI following a second allegation of rape some time ago.

Mr McBride, the Glasgow-born former Celtic director, said: “The final straw was laid when complaints about our own Director General were made by a female member of staff in January of this year, although not in any way related to the more serious allegations that have come to light from some years ago. 

“After investigation it was found that he had made a female member of staff uncomfortable and measures were put in place. 

“However, it was only when further allegations against him emerged and were made known to the CBI board, that we immediately suspended the Director General, and commissioned an independent investigation by Fox Williams into those allegations, on conclusion of which he was removed from the CBI.”

In an indication of his and the board’s determination to see the CBI survivie, he said new director-general Rain Newton-Smith “will lead the changes necessary at the CBI”. She will be assisted by CBI board member Jill Ader, senior adviser and former chair at Egon Zehnder.

The organisation has also begun the process of recruiting a chief people officer and will re-build the board following the previously planned rotations.

A permanent, independent and confidential whistleblowing channel has been put in place outside the CBI for people to come forward with past and future concerns about misconduct. 

An HR consultancy has been hired to independently examine any further complaints of misconduct made by colleagues while the wider review takes place, and internal processes are reformed. 

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