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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Daniel O'Boyle

CBI president: We failed to sack sexual harassers and made women reluctant to report misconduct

The president of the scandal-hit Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the organisation failed to sack those accused of sexual harassment when it should have done so, creating a culture where women were reluctant to come forward with complaints.

Brian McBride, who became president in June of last year, addressed a number of failings at the lobby group as law firm Fox Williams released its report on misconduct at the CBI.

“We failed to filter out culturally toxic people during the hiring process,” he said. We failed to conduct proper cultural onboarding of staff

“And we tried to find resolution in sexual harassment cases when we should have removed those offenders from our business.

“In retrospect, this last point was our most grievous error, which led to a reluctance amongst women to formalise complaints. It allowed that very small minority of staff with regressive – and, in some cases, abhorrent - attitudes towards their female colleagues to feel more assured in their behaviour, and more confident of not being detected.”

In its report, Fox Williams said that it did not hear evidence that the lobby group’s board or senior leadership was aware of many of the incidents of misconduct that were raised in an article in the Guardian last month.

However, it added that this was due to the fact that staff did not come forward amid “obstacles to the communication of concerns about employee behaviour from the HR team to the executive committee or to the board level”.

The CBI will implement a number of recommendations made by Fox Williams, such as defining the role of its chief people officer more clearly and looking at ways to “build a feedback culture where anonymous feedback has relevance and impact”. It has also already dismissed “a number of” staff that it said failed to meet its standards.

The Fox Williams report dealt specifically with the question of whether CBI leadership was aware of the misconduct that took place at the organisation. The City of London Police are also looking into the body to consider any potential criminal offenses.

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