Amnesty International has a 'toxic' working environment, review finds

The charity pledges reform after its working practices are criticised

Amnesty International has a "toxic" working environment that has been blamed by more than a third of staff for their physical or mental health issues, a report has concluded.

The staff wellbeing review, which was published last week and carried out by the Konterra Group on behalf of the charity, found that 39 per cent of staff said they had developed health problems as a result of working for Amnesty International.

The review, which included a survey to which 70 per cent of the charity’s workforce responded, found that the majority of the health issues mentioned were caused by an "adversarial culture" in the workplace, failures in management and workload pressures.

But the charity’s attempts at supporting staff wellbeing were deemed by the review to be "ad hoc, reactive and piecemeal" and were not meeting the needs of most staff.

The people and organisational development department at the charity was singled out in the review for failing to "fulfil its key roles as an impartial adviser to staff and the guardian of workplace standards".

A number of recommendations for reform were included in the review, including better support for issues related to stress and introducing a wellbeing taskforce at the charity.

In a statement about the wellbeing review, Kumi Naidoo, secretary general of Amnesty International, said it was "abundantly clear that there is a deep deficit in our duty of care and support to staff" and pledged to work with staff to implement the review’s recommendations.

"To hear our employees speak of a culture of secrecy and mistrust where discrimination, bullying and abuse of power have been condoned is profoundly troubling," Naidoo said.

"The senior leadership team takes shared responsibility for the climate that emerged, where colleagues felt, or continue to feel, undervalued and unsupported, and we are truly sorry.

"But an apology is not enough. This lesson has been learnt. We need to look after each other and develop compassion and mutual care to help Amnesty International become the uplifting community it needs to be."

The review of staff wellbeing was commissioned alongside two other reviews of the suicides of two Amnesty International workers last year.

The first review examined the suicide of Gaëtan Mootoo, 65, a researcher in Amnesty International’s Paris office, who cited problems with his workload in a note he left behind.

The review of Mootoo’s death found that the charity had not breached its duty to provide a safe system of work under English law.

Another review, into the death last year of Rosalind McGregor, a 28-year-old intern working in the charity’s Geneva office and previously at its offices in Mexico City, highlighted concerns about the charity’s monitoring of her workload but concluded there was no breach of the charity’s duty of care.

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