Charity urges workers to 'call out' sexism and bigotry after staff survey accusations

The RNLI says it wants to be a 'truly inclusive lifesaving organisation'

(Photograph: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

The RNLI today urged its employees and volunteers to “call out” inappropriate behaviour after a staff survey contained allegations of sexism and bigotry.

The rescue charity published a statement to apologise after The Times and the BBC published reports based on the internal surveys from 2021 and 2022.

It said it strove to become a “truly inclusive lifesaving charity” following allegations of sexism from staff.

Sue Barnes, the RNLI’s people director, said: “There is no place for misogynistic, sexist and non-inclusive behaviours at the RNLI and we are committed to taking action and tackling such behaviour.”

According to the BBC, there were around 3,600 survey responses over the two years, which it said were “mostly positive comments”.

However, the report highlighted several incidents of sexism and bigotry by those working for the charity.

The RNLI said that 2,076 people completed its employee survey in 2021 and 2,589 people completed it in 2022. 

According to the BBC, one female respondent from the 2022 survey said she was “repeatedly” subjected to sexist terms by her male colleagues.

"I have not once felt like the RNLI supports women or minorities," she reportedly said. 

Another respondent from the 2021 survey said: “I have never been at a station/around a branch and not heard an inappropriate comment or joke regarding race, sex or sexual orientation.”

According to The Times, another respondent in a 2021 survey said: “I believe the RNLI is a sexist charity when it comes to how you are treated at work. I have felt utterly discriminated against because I am a female.”

Barnes said: “We encourage people to call out unacceptable behaviours and are committed to investigating and taking action where behaviour falls below the standards we expect. 

“We have a range of methods that our people can use to report unacceptable behaviour, including a whistleblowing reporting line hosted by a third party.

“We know we have more work to do to ensure we become the truly inclusive lifesaving charity we strive to be.”

Founded in 1824, the RNLI seeks to save people’s lives at sea and around the coasts of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, including through its lifeboat service.

The charity had a total income of £219m in the financial year ending 2021, with an expenditure of £199m.

It has 2,398 staff, 13 trustees and 32,382 volunteers.

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