The president of the CBI is to step down earlier than planned as part of an overhaul of the leadership of the embattled business lobby group.

Brian McBride is to start the search for his successor, with the handover due to take place in the new year.

The lobby group is fighting for survival following allegations of rape and sexual assault against staff.

Members will begin voting today on the group’s “programme of change” which is designed to restore trust in the body.

The CBI’s new director general, Rain Newton-Smith, said the group had “listened” and was “taking accountability”.

The group has suspended its day-to-day operations due to the allegations and will only resume them if members back its plans for change at an extraordinary general meeting on June 6.

A number of major firms, including John Lewis and BMW, have quit the CBI over the claims.

Others such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s have suspended engagement with the group, which claims to represent 190,000 firms.

The government has also paused engagement, with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying there was “no point” working with the CBI when its own members had deserted it.