Employees ‘suspended’ at women’s charity after raising bullying allegations

31 Oct 2023 News

Adobe, Satjawat

A union has reported that 13 of its members working at Glasgow East Women’s Aid (GEWA) were suspended from the charity after raising bullying allegations. 

Linda Wilson, workers’ union Unite’s industrial officer, said GEWA has “in effect been closed for six weeks” but the charity says its services remain open.   

The board at GEWA said it has asked some staff to stay at home on full pay while an external investigation is underway. 

GEWA’s website states that it will be operating on a “reduced service” due to “unforeseen circumstances”. The website redirects beneficiaries to a different charity, Scotland’s Domestic Abuse & Forced Marriage Helpline. 

According to its accounts for the year ending 31 March 2023, GEWA had a monthly average of 17 employees, three of which were part-time managers. 

GEWA did not confirm how many frontline staff had been suspended. 

Its latest accounts state its staff team is made up of 14 people, meaning that if this is still correct, and if Unite's figure is accurate, only one member of the staff team remains working at the charity. 

GEWA said its sister organisations Glasgow Women’s Aid, Scottish Women’s Aid and North Lanarkshire Women’s Aid are providing support across its services. 

Unite: ‘Staff have been victimised’ 

Unite opened a ballot for industrial action on 30 October which closes on 13 November over the suspensions. It put forward a motion of no confidence in the charity's management and board. 

Unite general secretary, Sharon Graham, said: “The situation facing Unite’s members at Glasgow East Women’s Aid is shocking and deeply worrying. Whistleblowing staff have been victimised for raising concerns about bullying in the workplace. They are currently suspended which exactly proves the point that our members have been making.

“Unite will stand up for our members’ jobs, terms, and conditions but also the vulnerable women and children who need access to this lifeline service in greater Easterhouse.” 

Unite industrial officer, Wilson, added: “The staff have legitimate concerns over the environment in which they work. Instead of these concerns being addressed through proper due process the management of Glasgow East Women’s Aid decided to suspend our members.”

GEWA: ‘Staff have been asked to stay at home on full pay’

The board of GEWA said: "These are private and confidential, internal employment matters that we are currently in the process of giving a careful investigation to, with legal support. 

“The well-being of employees and service users has been at the forefront of all our justifiable decisions. At all points during this process contingency and risk have been established. We have not suspended all employees: some areas of services have been altered to allow thorough investigations to take place. This was done to protect the organisation, all of our employees and service users.

“GEWA facilitates external supervision counselling for all employees who need it and this is still in place whilst staff have been asked to stay at home, on full pay. 

“Our office is open normal hours and is available to service users. All service users who have engaged with our service, existing and new, continue to be supported. We are regulated in this regard and have to report to the local authority and evidence how we are providing continued support.

“The current functioning and decision-making of GEWA follows all guidance such as that set by the Scottish government and OCSR. All funders and stakeholders have been made aware of ongoing matters. 

“The GEWA board function in a volunteer capacity to continue to support the organisation. The board are confused and concerned that this matter has been taken to the press. We are disappointed that these attempts have been made to cause organisational damage.

“We are looking forward to conclusion of these matters and are working hard to finalise the investigation.”

OSCR: ‘We are in dialogue with the charity’

An OSCR spokesperson said: “We are in dialogue with the charity following proactive contact from the charity trustees and understand the current situation.

“Our interest is in ensuring that the charity trustees are meeting their legal duties in managing the affairs of the charity appropriately.”

Trustee turnover

Four of the charity’s six trustees listed in its accounts ending March 2023 have been terminated as directors in the past two months, according to Companies House, with three leaving their roles last Tuesday.

There are now four directors listed on Companies House; two of which were appointed in June.

Last year, three trustees resigned from GEWA and three more were appointed.

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