Parliamentary staff are being discouraged from pursuing complaints and have been given incorrect advice by the grievance system introduced to deal with bullying and harassment in the Commons, according to a report.
An article in The Times suggested there were numerous issues with the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), which was introduced in 2018 alongside a behaviour code in order to stamp out bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the House of Commons.
According to the newspaper, some workers who have raised a complaint with the ICGS received an inadequate response.
One woman was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after six weeks working with a Labour MP. She claimed she was shouted at, belittled in front of colleagues and had her work put in the bin.
She told the Times that the ICGS incorrectly told her to lodge a complaint with the Labour party, and did not receive the counselling she requested. Another former member of staff said she did not receive the mental health support she asked the ICGS for.
However, some ICGS users said they were treated well under the scheme once their claims had progressed from initial contact to an investigation.
A House of Commons spokesperson said: “There is zero tolerance for abuse or harassment in Parliament. The behaviour code makes clear the standards of behaviour expected of everyone in Parliament. We are genuinely sorry to learn that some people who have used the [ICGS] have raised concerns.
“An 18-month review of the scheme has just launched and we would urge all members of the parliamentary community who have used it to provide feedback.”
In 2019, an independent inquiry led by Gemma White QC found that many staff felt raising complaint through the ICGS would be “career suicide”.
Earlier this year the House of Commons Commission, which oversees the Commons and the staff that work within it, announced the creation of an independent panel for examining claims of bullying and sexual harassment by MPs and an HR service – called the Members’ Services Team – for MPs and their staff.
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