The chair of one of Britain’s most influential business groups has been suspended to allow further investigation of allegations of bullying and making racist comments about staff.
Barbara Judge, 71, of the Institute of Directors, is facing 41 allegations, which also include sexism claims.
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The move follows a lengthy meeting of members of the business lobby group’s council on Thursday to consider the findings of an inquiry, led by the law firm Hill Dickinson, into the claims about Lady Judge’s conduct.
It also comes after Judge told the Times on Wednesday night that she had “voluntarily decided to step aside temporarily from my role as chair and contest these allegations and the flawed process conducted so far”. She said the investigation had not given her the opportunity to respond to the claims.
The IoD said on Friday: “The council took the decision, having received the Hill Dickinson executive summary, to suspend the IoD chair pending further investigation into the matters raised and the process.”
The law firm’s report, which had been commissioned by the business group’s senior independent council member, Dame Joan Stringer, is understood to have begun three months ago.
The IoD said a full investigation had been commissioned after its human resources department was “made aware of a number of allegations from staff members concerning the conduct of non-executive members of our board”.
The report, according to the Times, alleged that Judge made racist statements about staff, such as “blacks can get aggressive”.
She is also alleged to have bullied her assistant and reduced her to tears on several occasions, while she is claimed to have said: “The problem is we have one black and we have one pregnant woman [on the IoD’s secretariat] and that is the worst combination we could possibly have.”
Judge, who has one of the longest CVs in the City, also sits on the board of the charity Dementia UK.
The charity said on Thursday it was made aware of the allegations against her that morning, and that while the claims did not relate to her role at Dementia UK, the charity was naturally concerned about the allegations and was carrying out an urgent review.