Kate Lee, who was due to join the Alzheimer's Society next month, starts her new role as chief executive today.
In a statement on Friday afternoon the charity said Jeremy Hughes is leaving a month early, because “recent events have taken their toll” on his health.
The Charity Commission is looking into a complaint about the Alzheimer’s Society, which it failed to respond to in 2018, after an investigation by the Guardian.
Alzheimer’s Society’s management have been accused of spending up to £750,000 on payouts for non-disclosure agreements, allegedly used to silence staff accusations about bullying.
Alzheimer's Society has said this figure is inaccurate and that it only used settlements for “legitimate reasons” where other options for resolution have been explored.
Kate Lee has been chief executive at the children's cancer charity CLIC Sargent for four years, where she has overseen a major rebrand and successfully lobbied the government to pay for all funerals of children under 18.
On Twitter she said that she wished the circumstances around her appointment were different, but added that she is still “extremely proud” to become chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society.
Wish the circumstances were different but still extremely proud to become CEO of @alzheimerssoc on Monday. Thanks to the Trustees for believing in me & giving me the opportunity to lead something I'm so passionate about.— Kate Lee (@KateLeeCEO) February 28, 2020
Now team get some rest, Monday is going to be noisy! https://t.co/SNN2tYbqrK
‘We are deeply concerned about the reported experience of ex-employees’
In a new statement published on Friday, Stephen Hill, chair of the board of trustees at the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We remain committed to ensuring our incredibly hard-working and dedicated employees and volunteers can focus on our vital work to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.
“We are deeply concerned about the reported experience of the ex-employees quoted in the media. We are continuing to do everything we can to ensure all employees are aware of all the channels available to them to raise issues or concerns, and that they are encouraged and supported to do so. All complaints raised with us are taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly.
“The board and the Society have a zero tolerance of bullying and discrimination – our evidence shows we have not and do not use settlement agreements or non-disclosure agreements to stop anyone reporting any whistleblowing, harassment or discrimination complaints.
“Our anonymous staff survey shows the number of people reporting issues was low in comparison with the charity sector, but we’re always working to reduce this further. We welcome the Charity Commission's investigation into the allegations recently published and will, of course, co-operate fully with it.
“Understandably, recent events have taken their toll on Jeremy's health. He has therefore decided to step aside a few weeks early as chief executive and I am delighted that Kate Lee is able to take up responsibility for leading the Society starting on Monday.
“We remain committed to ensuring our incredibly hard-working and dedicated employees and volunteers can focus on our vital work to improve the lives of people affected by dementia.”
Samaritans charity says Hughes will no longer become chief executive
Hughes had announced his departure from the Alzheimer's Society in September 2019, and in December 2019 the charity announced that Lee would join from Clic Sargent from April.
At the time Alzheimer’s Society said that his departure was not related to claims of bullying via a now deleted Twitter account.
Samaritans has said that Hughes will no longer become chief executive of the charity in May. It said the decision was not in any way based on the allegations themselves, “which Samaritans is not in a position to judge”.
Rachel Kirby-Rider, director of income and engagement at CLIC Sargent, has become its acting chief executive.