Apr 28th, 2020
Statement from the Board of 38 Degrees
By Srabani Sen
Following the dismissal of 38 Degree’s Executive Director, David Babbs, last year, for gross misconduct, the Board commissioned an independent investigation into additional allegations which surfaced about his conduct. This investigation was conducted by an experienced independent investigator, Robin Somerville.
As we have previously made clear, 38 Degrees is unwavering in our determination to hold those in power to the highest possible standards, and we hold ourselves to the same standards. The welfare of our staff is one of our highest priorities and we set out below the actions we have taken to learn the lessons which flow from Mr Somerville’s investigation and his findings.
Mr Somerville’s investigation spoke to many witnesses over a period of nine months. Mr Somerville reached his conclusions on the balance of probabilities. Mr Babbs was provided with opportunities to engage with the investigation, but ultimately declined to do so, save to say that the allegations were false. He was not under any obligation to engage with the investigation. Whilst Mr Babbs complained, including through his lawyers, about the investigation process and its fairness and Mr Somerville considered these complaints and addressed them in his report, Mr Somerville decided that he could reach conclusions on the allegations in respect of Mr Babbs. The investigation and publication of its outcome has taken longer than desired for legal reasons.
We stand by our commitment to transparency and have been as open with the findings as legally possible.
Mr Somerville found several allegations proven in respect of Mr Babbs, namely unacceptable and unprofessional conduct in the workplace and relating to his leadership and management style. He also concluded that a number of the allegations made in respect of Mr Babbs were not proven, and that some were without merit. 38 Degrees has offered to provide a more detailed summary of the findings of the investigation to stakeholders and those involved in the investigation.
Mr Somerville also looked at the handling of concerns about Mr Babbs’ conduct which had been raised on an earlier occasion and brought to the board’s attention by Mr Babbs himself. Mr Somerville concluded that 38 Degrees did everything it reasonably could in that case, given that the conduit for those concerns shared no first hand knowledge and had not wanted to take the matter further. Mr Somerville did suggest that 38 Degrees might “consider developing a process and policy for how to deal with individuals’ concerns better in the future, including signposting or provision of some form of advice”.
We are troubled by the findings of the investigation, and would like to apologise to anyone who was affected. As a Board we take full responsibility for holding the senior executives to account for their actions and behaviours. We endeavour to ensure our processes are robust enough to enable us to do this to the highest possible standard.
What has already changed at 38 Degrees:
While we have been waiting for the outcome of this investigation, we have been working to ensure that today’s 38 Degrees is an inclusive, welcoming and safe place for our excellent team to work.We have sought to do as much as we can to ensure previous incidents do not happen again:
- We recognise the importance of strong links between Board members and a broad range of people in the staff team. As a result, the Board has built closer relationships with the wider Senior Leadership Team.
- We have sought to empower the staff team and ensure they are fully included across channels of communication with the Board, should they ever have concerns in the future. We have introduced AllVoices – an anonymous reporting platform, where every team member, regardless of role, can report concerns directly to the Board.
- We have created a new “People Director” position on the Senior Leadership Team, whose role it is to ensure that workplace HR policies and our approach to staff wellbeing are sector leading.
- The organisation is currently in the process of formally recognising a staff union.
What will we do next:
Now we know the findings of this investigation, the board will be continuing to work closely with the staff team to make our organisation the best it can be, setting and exceeding the high standards that anyone who is involved with 38 Degrees should expect.
38 Degrees has never shied away from asking the difficult questions, or challenging those with power to do better. We will continue to ask those questions of ourselves and our leadership, to ensure that we live out the values we demand of others.