Employment news

Independent review criticises Oxfam for “toxic work environment”

An independent review has heavily criticised Oxfam for not having a central HR management system or the necessary safeguarding policies in place to prevent abuse or bullying. The Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change (ICSMACC) found a “toxic work environment” within the charity marked by “elitism… racism and colonial behaviour” as well as bullying.

The commission was established by Oxfam in May 2018 to investigate the charity’s culture following last year’s scandal in which allegations were raised of sexual abuse by workers in Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

In its interim report “Listening to People: Rebuilding trust” the commission identified a lack of “robust policies and procedures” that had led to a culture in which sexual misconduct and harassment could be misunderstood or even unaddressed. Staff were highly critical of management behaviour and company procedures for dealing with bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and the organisation lacked a centralised HR management system, trusted safeguarding processes and culture of accountability. The lack of a centralised HR system meant there was no comprehensive oversight of complaints or reports of misconduct that came in through the charity’s multiple reporting channels.

The report also highlighted a number of areas for improvement, including strengthening leadership training in safeguarding, managing power, building positive behaviour, and cultivating emotional intelligence.