Govt pledge to “fundamentally change” parliament’s working culture
Andrea Leadsom has pledged to “fundamentally change” the working culture in parliament, after a report was published which shows more than a third of staff in Westminster have experienced harassment or bullying in the last year.
Speaking today, the leader of the House of Commons announced a series of “robust procedures” to change the culture in Parliament and allow Westminster to “set the best example of a workplace that protects and supports all those working in it”.
The statement follows the publication of a report by a cross-party working group, which was set up in the autumn, following allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the corridors of power.
“After more than a 100 hours of discussion, consultation and discussion, I believe we have proposed a set of policies which will fundamentally change the working culture in parliament,” Ms Leadsom told MPs.
The new measures include a shared behaviour code, which will apply to everyone on the estate or engaged in parliamentary business.
There will also be a new independent complaints and grievance scheme, with a separate procedure for complaints about sexual harassment.
The report published today by the working group adds these new policies must “encourage a culture of prevention” and uphold the right to a “safe and dignified environment free from discrimination”.
And the report also states all complaints relating to sexual harassment be handled by a specialist, trained and independent adviser.
A survey carried out by the working group revealed that bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been a “feature in the lives of many who work in Parliament” with more than a third (39%) of respondents reporting they had experienced non-sexual harassment or bullying in the last year.
And almost one in five (19%) reported having experienced sexual harassment, including witnessing “sexually inappropriate behaviour”.
The report also refers to separate surveys of MPs’ and Peers’ staff by both Unite and MAPSA (Members and Peers’ Staff Association), which found more than half (53%) of respondents had experienced, witnessed or heard of bullying/harassment while working in Westminster.
While Unite’s survey also found “high levels of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment” with 27% of people having experienced behaviour they would describe as bullying and intimidating.
“It is unacceptable that inappropriate behaviours, including bullying and harrassment and sexual harassment, take place across what we have called ‘the parliamentary community’,” the report states.
“The working group recognises that a greater understanding of these issues will be an important contributor to change, so there is a need for mandatory and voluntary training for MPs, peers and staff.”
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