NCVO silent on whether it used non-disclosure agreements in complaints involving former chief and deputy

An investigation had upheld multiple complaints of victimisation, harassment and race discrimination against Karl Wilding, the membership body's former chief executive, and Susan Cordingley, his former deputy

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has declined to say whether staff who complained about the organisation’s former chief executive and his deputy were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

Earlier this week, Third Sector revealed that an independent investigation upheld multiple complaints of victimisation, harassment and race discrimination against the NCVO’s former chief executive Karl Wilding and former deputy chief executive Susan Cordingley.

Although the complaints were made while Wilding and Cordingley were still in post, the pair were allowed to leave the organisation before the investigation took place.

The latest NCVO accounts, published in November, revealed Wilding received a termination payment of almost £28,000, while Cordingley was given a “payment in lieu of notice” of £22,455.

When asked whether those who had made the upheld complaints against Wilding and Cordingley had signed contracts with gagging clauses preventing them from discussing the issue following the results of the investigation, an NCVO spokesperson said the organisation could not provide further details.

“Throughout the investigations process we have protected the identity of all the individuals involved for legal reasons, to safeguard the integrity of the investigations and complaints process, and to support the wellbeing of those involved,” the spokesperson said.

The complaints came to light as part of an inquiry that was prompted by a damning independent EDI review produced in June 2020, which found that NCVO staff members from all marginalised groups experienced bullying, harassment and “overt and covert oppression” across all levels of the organisation.

Of the 10 specific complaints found by the inquiry, the NCVO said in September that “a number” were upheld, while the others had “either not reached a conclusion or were partially upheld”. The umbrella body has so far declined to give more detailed figures.

Third Sector understands that not all of those 10 complaints were made against Wilding or Cordingley.

Wilding stepped down with immediate effect as chief executive of the NCVO in January 2021 after 18 months in the role and 23 years with the organisation.

When Third Sector published excerpts from the EDI report the following month, an NCVO spokesperson denied Wilding’s departure was connected to the EDI review.

Cordingley left on 1 February 2021.

Before Wilding and Cordingley left the NCVO, they oversaw a restructure prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The investigation into the complaints was postponed until after the restructure had been initiated.

In a statement, the NCVO said no members of the board or senior leadership team knew who the complaints had been made against when the decision to postpone the investigation was made in early September 2020.

The board was told who the complaints related to the day after the restructure was publicly announced and the same day the consultations with affected staff members began, the NCVO said.

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