The trade union Unite has called on the suicide-prevention charity Samaritans to reverse its decision to hire Jeremy Hughes as its new chief executive, after newspaper reports alleging that he displayed bullying behaviour during his time at Alzheimer’s Society.
The union, which said it represents 50 staff at Samaritans, says the allegations reported in The Guardian at the end of last week meant there were concerns about Hughes’s management style and therefore the charity’s trustees should rethink their decision to hire him.
The newspaper reported that Hughes had allegedly displayed bullying behaviour towards staff, and that the Alzheimer’s Society had spent £750,000 on non-disclosure agreements. This was strongly denied by the charity.
The Charity Commission has reopened a 2018 complaint about the Alzheimer’s Society’s handling of staff grievances.
The Alzheimer’s Society said it had a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying and discrimination and a robust internal complaints procedure.
A statement published by Samaritans yesterday after the claims about Hughes came to light said its board “takes this issue extremely seriously and is currently in discussions about the situation”.
Hughes is due to take over as chief executive of Samaritans in May.
Unite said it had represented a “large number” of members at Samaritans in relation to alleged bullying by former members of the charity’s senior management team, which made it “especially concerned” about Hughes’s appointment.
Peter Storey, regional officer at Unite, said: “Given the fact that the Samaritans is in the very early stages of recovering from a toxic bullying culture that has damaged the lives of many of its staff, Unite does not believe Mr Hughes is the right person to heal the problems the charity has experienced.
“Unite believes it is incumbent on the trustees at the Samaritans to rescind the appointment of Mr Hughes as its chief executive and instead appoint someone who has a track record of tackling a toxic bullying culture.”
Samaritans did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday morning.