The Confederation of British Industry’s dismissal of now-former Director-General Tony Danker, prompted by accusations of inappropriate workplace conduct, has sent shockwaves through British business and prompted an investigation that could continue for months. This scandal was quickly followed by the resignation of Dominic Raab MP from his roles as Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, after a report by Adam Tolley KC found that he had bullied civil servants.
Employment law experts Joseph Lappin and Charlie Thompson have shared their thoughts with media on the key takeaways from these workplace controversies.
CBI investigation could drag on
Scandal first hit the CBI in March when The Guardian reported a sexual harassment claim brought against Tony Danker, leading to Danker’s dismissal and the launch of an independent investigation. Further allegations have since been brought against CBI employees.
The CBI crisis raises multiple questions of interest:
- Will the independent investigation uphold the allegations or conclude there is a lack of evidence? Investigating these kinds of allegations, especially when they are historic, is often very difficult. There is often a lack of documentary evidence, and accounts from witnesses can often contradict each other.
- Although the investigation is happening now, many of the allegations are historic. Every employer is required to have policies that enable employees to raise their concerns at work – were those policies used? And if not, why not? It is very common for individuals to feel reluctant to raise a concern through a formal grievance process, perhaps because they are worried about repercussions, or perhaps because they do not trust their employer, conducting its own investigation into itself, to do it properly.
- Although the CBI has referred to an independent investigation, how much of its findings will be shared externally?
Charlie Thompson said to The Telegraph that internal hopes that the investigation will be over quickly could be dashed, with no guarantee it will even conclude in six months’ time.
He said: “You only need to look at certain high-profile internal investigations at other big organisations to see these things can drag out that long, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility.
“While the CBI may want to wrap this up quickly, that may not be possible – there is scope for this to run and run.”
Looking back in anger: Dominic Raab’s “remarkable” resignation letter
Formal complaints about Dominic Raab’s conduct were first made in November 2022. These complaints led to Raab asking the Prime Minister to commission an independent investigation into the complaints.
Rishi Sunak appointed Adam Tolley KC to investigate and publish a report on his findings. Tolley KC’s investigation report was published in April 2023.
Tolley KC found that Raab had acted “in a way which was intimidating, in the sense of unreasonably and persistently aggressive conduct in the context of a work meeting”. He also found that Raab had undermined and humiliated a senior civil servant. Tolley KC’s findings triggered Raab’s resignation from his roles as Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister.
Raab’s resignation letter was critical of the Tolley KC’s conclusions: “Whilst I feel duty bound to accept the outcome of the inquiry, it dismissed all but two of the claims levelled against me. I also believe that its two adverse findings are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government.”
Joseph Lappin was quoted in The i’s live blog on the resignation: “Dominic Raab had promised the Prime Minister he would resign if allegations of bullying against him were upheld by an independent investigator. Adam Tolley KC, a barrister, has found that Raab acted in an “intimidating” and “insulting” manner and bullied staff. True to his word, Raab has resigned from his ministerial position.
However, the criticism of Tolley KC’s investigation by Raab in his resignation letter is remarkable. When serious allegations have been upheld following a thorough investigation, one might expect the person under investigation to offer an apology and commit to improving their conduct. But, perhaps Raab’s reaction is not surprising given what we now know about his uncompromising management style at work.”
Charlie added: “The resignation letter illustrates a central conundrum for anyone accused of bullying – an attempt to defend or contextualise one’s conduct can easily be interpreted as a further illustration that the individual is, indeed, a bully.”
Dealing with workplace harassment and bullying
For more information on these themes see our in-depth guides to:
- Workplace bullying in a hybrid environment
- How complainants, employers and alleged bullies can deal with a complaint
- How women can raise a complaint at work
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