August 2, 2016

Charity chief executive wins unfair dismissal case

Dr Rosemary Gillespie, who had served as the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, had been asked to stand down last July.

Following her departure she decided to pursue a claim against her former employer.

Last week, the Tribunal ruled that that she had been dismissed from her post largely as a result of the fact that she had made disclosures about the former vice chair Paul Jenkins.

It had been alleged that Mr Jenkins had repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances towards a member of the trust’s staff during a charity auction.

Dr Gillespie had also raised concerns about the length of time it was taking to investigate allegations into the conduct of two other senior managers, who had been suspended by the charity.

The Tribunal had heard that Dr Gillespie’s departure had come a matter of months after she was sent an email by the charity’s chairman, Robert Glick, in which he said it was a “tremendous pleasure” working with her.

He later told the Tribunal hearing that he already had grave doubts about the former chief executive at the time he had written the email, but he intended the correspondence to bolster her confidence.

Despite this, the Tribunal concluded that Dr Gillespie had been the subject of a “nasty, vindictive and sustained campaign of bullying.”

In a statement following last week’s judgment, she said: “I was brought in to the charity because I have a successful track record of leading change, and trustees were aware after they conducted an external listening exercise that a great deal of change and improvement was needed at the charity.

“I am confident that if I had been given time to see these changes through and not been treated in the way I was, I would have achieved this at the Terrence Higgins Trust.”

The charity said that it would conduct a review into its governance process in light of the case, saying it was disappointed by the outcome of the Tribunal while acknowledging it had lessons to learn.

A remedy hearing will be scheduled for a later date.

Royds can provide legal advice on employment issues affecting the charity sector, including Tribunal claims. For further details please contact Gemma Ospedale.

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