RNLI staff surveys raise concerns about sexist behaviour

An RNLI lifeguard

A number of workers at the RNLI have raised some concerns about sexist and bigoted behaviour at the organisation.

Internal surveys from 2021 and 2022 on the attitudes of staff and volunteers working at the UK lifeboat charity cite sexism and bullying.

The documents, first reported by the Times, have been seen by the BBC.

The RNLI told the BBC it was sorry to anyone who had faced “behaviours and actions that no one should have to tolerate” and “will act”.

The organisation, which has more than 30,000 staff and volunteers, had about 3,600 survey responses over two years, mostly positive comments.

But the survey results show concerns also included “blame” culture, misogyny, being overworked, and a lack of space to openly call out inappropriate behaviour.

In the 2022 survey, one female respondent recounts being “repeatedly” called sexist terms by male colleagues.

“I have not once felt like the RNLI supports women or minorities,” she said, adding that she would not recommend it “as an employer to anybody”.

A comment in the previous year’s survey described the level of sexism at RNLI stations and around the coast as “abhorrent”.

“I have never been at a station/around a branch and not heard an inappropriate comment or joke regarding race, sex or sexual orientation”.

Matters reported to senior members were “not dealt with effectively and timely,” the person said, leading to some individuals getting away with “disgraceful behaviour”.

A respondent to the 2022 survey said their mental health has been affected by many factors, including a lack of holding people to account, being overworked and “awful misogyny”.

Bullying was mentioned in a number of survey responses. There were no specific examples given but a respondent to the 2022 poll talked about experiencing a “culture of bullying and harassment”.

But colleagues were praised for being “caring” by many survey respondents, and one comment says the RNLI is “very inclusive of everyone and the relationships in the team make it a great place to work”.

The RNLI’s Code of Conduct says volunteers must not “participate in any form of inappropriate behaviour or activity”, including bullying, harassment or unlawful discrimination.

Sue Barnes, RNLI’s People Director, said: “We are sorry to our volunteers and staff who have faced behaviours and actions that no one should have to tolerate.

“There is no place for misogynistic, sexist, and non-inclusive behaviours at the RNLI and we are committed to taking action and tackling such behaviour.”

She added that it has a “range of methods” members can use to report unacceptable behaviour, including a whistle-blowing reporting line.

“We know we have more work to do to ensure we become the truly inclusive lifesaving charity we strive to be,” she said.

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