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Oxfam Told to Do More to Tackle Sexual Misconduct

on Friday, 25 January 2019.

A lack of robust policies and procedures, as well as poor implementation, have enabled an environment that permits sexual misconduct to be misunderstood...

... a report from the Independent Commission on Sexual Misconduct, Accountability and Culture Change has found.

The report also finds that this extents to staff feeling that processes for preventing and responding to harassment and bullying are deficient.


The Commission was established by Oxfam in response to reports that it had mismanaged investigations and failed to properly prevent and investigate sexual misconduct by staff.

The interim report, published on the 19 January, sets out the Commission's initial findings and recommendations. The full report is expected in May 2019, with further evidence still to be gathered. A separate investigation is also being conducted by the Charity Commission.

The Initial Findings

The report finds that Oxfam "has prioritized what it aims to achieve over how it is done, at some cost to its staff and the communities they serve" and that staff are frustrated by a lack of accountability, both for sexual misconduct and bad management, within the organisation.

The Recommendations

The report makes various 'emerging' recommendations including:

  • a requirement for all staff to re-sign the code of conduct annually, as well as attend refresher training
  • exposing job applicants to the code of conduct well before any offer of employment is finalised
  • properly taking account of the organisation's values and ethical behaviour during the recruitment process, within disciplinary policies and during the staff performance review process
  • creating a single uniform system for reporting and investigating safeguarding concerns
  • incorporating staff surveys and 360 degree reviews into the performance management system to identify bullying, harassment and other abuses of power
  • team managers having regular conversations about the code of conduct, safeguarding, power dynamics and bias, as well as discussing clear actions which can be taken within teams
  • providing safeguarding policies and the code of conduct in easy-to-understand language and in local languages when needed
  • discussing safeguarding policies and the code of conduct with staff, explaining nuances

What Does This Mean for Employers?

While the report specifically concerns Oxfam, it provides a useful insight into emerging best practice within the charitable sector and the workplace generally.

We will keep you updated with any further developments while we await the final report in May 2019.

Would you like to review your policies and procedures? Contact Michael Halsey, in our Employment Law team, on 020 7665 0842, or complete the form below.

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