Politicians behaved in ways which “fall far short of what we should expect of our elected representatives” a damning reporting into bullying and sexual harassment in the House of Commons has said.
MPs behaved in ways which “fall far short of what we should expect of our elected representatives” a damning reporting into bullying and sexual harassment in the House of Commons has said.
The independent inquiry by Gemma White QC found that staff faced an “unacceptable risk of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, at work”.
While it said “most Members of Parliament treat their staff with dignity and respect” it described the problem of bullying and harassment as “sufficiently widespread to require an urgent collective response”.
It said it had found evidence of “breasts being grabbed, buttocks being slapped, thighs being stroked and crotches being pressed/rubbed against bodies”.
Staff who complain risk “career suicide” despite recent changes to the system in the wake of the #MeToo movement and Pestminster scandals.
One staff member quoted in the report described their time working for an MP as “the most stressful and hostile period of my life.
“My entire sense of self was crushed, and by the end, I felt incapable and incompetent, despite all of the work I had done in that office.”
Another said: “As long as getting political jobs in Parliament are dependent on who you know and who you’re related to, sexual harassment will be a necessary evil for ambitious young … people like me who will choose our careers over our comfort every time.”
Other staffers told the inquiry they felt “expendable” and said the experience of working in Parliament had “destroyed” their “sense of pride”.
One damning account said: “[The MP] absolutely crushed my confidence and made me feel worthless. Getting away from [them], that office and (I am sad to say it, but) Parliament was the best move for me.
“It is only in my more recent jobs that I realise actually how inappropriate [their] behaviour was and how little scrutiny process is in place”
The report concludes that there must be a “fundamental shift” away from regarding Members of Parliament as “650 small businesses” with near complete freedom to operate in relation to their staff.
It says employment in Parliament must more closely resemble those found in the rest of the public sector.
220 people gave evidence to the inquiry, with the most common complaint being that MPs would “demean, belittle and humiliate their staff on a regular basis, often in public”.
The behaviour left staff “anxious, exhausted and ill, incapable of performing their job”.
The report also found staff were subject to “unwanted sexual advances” which was often “accompanied by touching, sometimes forceful”.
It claims “there is an unacceptable level of sexual “banter” and unwelcome discussion of intimate sexual details in offices across Westminster.
Launching her report, Ms White said: “Many MPs have been described to me as excellent employers, colleagues and managers but a minority behave in ways which are not acceptable and fall far short of what we should expect from our elected representatives.
“Workplace harassment and bullying by MPs towards staff has been tolerated and accepted for too long. It has seriously affected the health and welfare of far too many people.
“There is a pressing need for a collective response to what is clearly a significant problem.
“I have set out a series of conclusions and recommendations for straightforward and practical action. I am concerned by the amount of time it has taken to act on recommendations from previous reports and would urge the House to move more swiftly.
“While the House of Commons is not alone in tolerating these behaviours, it is the home of our policy makers and a taxpayer-funded institution. It should therefore be at the forefront of good employment practice.”
The Inquiry was instigated by the House of Commons.