New sanctions against bullying and harassment at Westminster announced
© Mark Thomas
8 February 2018
A parliament-wide survey of 1,377 workers carried out by cross-party working party looking at the culture at Westminster, revealed 39 per cent of staff, MPs and peers had experienced bullying and harassment of some sort while on the estate. Of those suffering bullying or harassment, 45 per cent were women and 35 per cent were male.
Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:
"The results of the survey of workers in Westminster – which showed that one in five had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the past year – is deeply shocking and reveals a very worrying culture where this behaviour has been prevalent and staff have had no-where to go. If MPs have been named during the inquiry as perpetrators of serious harassment or assault they must not be protected by anonymity and investigations must be pursued.
"The proposals for a bullying hotline and an independent grievance procedure are steps in the right direction. But Westminster staff and journalists working in Parliament must have confidence in the measures proposed by the Commons Leader's report. There is clearly a problem with the culture at Parliament which has allowed this situation and behaviour to flourish.
"This report should be the start of making changes and Andrea Leadsom's office must review the situation in a year's time. Unions have a positive role to play in putting in place procedures to protect members and the NUJ hopes to be consulted once the proposals are agreed by Parliament."
Emily Cunningham, who sat on the on the report's working group as NUJ rep for SNP Westminster staff, said:
"Parliament is a complex workplace with many hundreds of employment relationships. These proposals are a positive step in building a safer and more professional working environment. It was vital to acknowledge that robust and independent workplace procedures were key to tackling the toxic culture that remains endemic in politics.
"At the heart of the recommendations is the importance of independence at each stage of the process. It is vital that this is maintained as the services are procured and implemented. Making the cultural changes necessary can only be achieved with the support of all Parliamentarians and staff to uphold the principles of respect and dignity at work. The authorities who will be overseeing the implementation of the procedures will also need to ensure staff feel safe to report bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and that appropriate sanctions are employed.
"Parliamentarians and staff representatives have worked tirelessly to put this report together, with the support of an excellent secretariat."
The report called for: a behaviour code for parliament, and training on the code, applicable to all people working or engaged in business on the parliamentary estate; an independent complaints and grievance system including two new Parliament-wide policies for responding to and managing complaints of sexual harassment and bullying and harassment; practical and emotional support for complainants; sexual harassment cases to be handled by a sexual violence adviser.
The range of sanctions proposed for MPs and peers include suspension/recall (in the Commons), suspension/expulsion (in the Lords), to giving an apology, a future behaviour agreement and training. Staff could be given final warnings or dismissed and passholders could have their passes withdrawn.