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Student ministry UCCF gives staffing update as former employee apologises for 'unhealthy and damaging' culture

by Tola Mbakwe

The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) has announced the hiring of a new staff member and two new trustees, months after an investigation into alleged breaches of employment law and misconduct by some employees.

In October 2023, the investigation undertaken by an employment barrister concluded that UCCF had badly handled the termination of some staff contracts and been potentially unlawful at times.

An independent investigator made four recommendations to improve employment practices and the charity’s governance.

On Thursday UCCF announced the appointment of Mary Comont as its new Director of People, which would show its “commitment to excellence” in future employment practices.

It also revealed Gareth Burns and Mark Childs will be added to the charity’s Trust Board to “strengthen our capabilities and experience as a board”.

The charity apologised for “instances where the termination of Christian Union Staff Workers' contracts were badly handled and caused them considerable hurt and upset”.

Meanwhile, a former team leader at UCCF has apologised for her role in developing an “unhealthy” culture that “damaged” employees.

Nay Dawson, who worked for the organisation in different capacities for almost 18 years said UCCF’s “desire for excellence took over” how they treated others.

In an opinion article for Premier Christianity she said: “Our incredible history was something to be proud of but our reputation became more important than how we treated our staff. So, it would quickly go from me asking for ideas on how to help a staff worker to they need to leave and the prospect of a disciplinary process would be floated”.

Dawson added: “I want to apologise publicly for my part in a culture that I now see as unhealthy and damaging to individuals. In my opinion we forced resignations when staff no longer fitted, used HR practises to manage people out rather than help them grow and improve. What I did was wrong”.

Dawson said it was commonplace for UCCF staff to leave after three years and the decision usually wasn’t left up to the employee.

“I saw staff managed out in my team, and in many others. But it wasn’t just those who endured a painful disciplinary,” she said.

“The decision whether staff would stay three, four or five years was usually decided ahead of the conversation with them,” Dawson added. The reasoning used left many feeling they weren’t worthy of being one of the essential workers of UCCF.”

When the international investigation began in January 2023, she felt a personal burden to reach out to each person she’d worked with to apologise for any way she had wronged them.

She said the process was “terrifying” but was surprised by her former colleagues’ responses.

“One thing I didn’t expect was that their grace to me led to a sense of lightness and freedom that I hadn’t felt in years; for

that I am truly grateful,” she said.

You can read the full Premier Christianity opinion article  here.


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