Alzheimer’s Society cleared of regulatory wrongdoing over settlement pay-outs
The Charity Commission has announced that it has copleted its regulatory compliance case at the Alzheimer’s Society, ruling that the charity’s trustees acted in line with their legal duties.
The regulator’s case was opened in February after the media reported allegations about the handling of bullying and harassment within the charity, including the use of confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements. The investigation looked at the charity’s governance, policies and processes rather than any individual instances of bullying or harassment.
According to a whistleblowing complaint reported by the Guardian newspaper, the Society paid up to £750,000 to staff who agreed to sign non-disclosure agreements. The article suggested the NDAs may have been used to silence staff accusations of bullying. The Commission said it saw no evidence that confidentiality clauses used by the charity were designed to or would have had the effect of preventing staff from reporting any whistleblowing, bullying, harassment or discrimination complaint. It also said that allegations reported in the national media about the amount of money paid out in settlements were not substantiated by the evidence that the Commission saw. It is satisfied that there were processes in place to ensure that settlement payments were properly scrutinised. In the interests of transparency, the regulator has however advised the charity to explain its decision-making and use of compensation payments in its annual report.
The Alzheimer’s Society has committed to greater transparency about its use of settlement agreements. The charity has also instigated an independent review of its procedures for raising concerns. It is not changing its use of settlement agreements but will be making the policy clearer. The Society had also provided evidence to the regulator to show it was carrying out work to strengthen its internal culture to ensure a positive environment for staff.