Survey reveals MPs' staff suffer bullying, humiliation and harassment

Survey reveals MPs' staff suffer bullying, humiliation and harassment

Houses of Misery: Shocking new survey lays bare how Parliament staff experience bullying, humiliation, conflict and sexual harassment – and MPs can’t stand each other

  • Two in five workers in Parliament feel miserable at work, finds new survey
  • One in three respondents said they had experienced some form of conflict
  • The results – which follow a series of scandals – have heightened calls for reform

Two in five workers in Parliament feel miserable at work as a shocking new survey laid bare how staff have experienced bullying, humiliation, conflict and sexual harassment.

In results that have heightened calls for reform at Westminster, it was found nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) reported their work is having a negative effect on their mental health.

And more than one-third (35 per cent) stated their work was having a negative impact on their physical health.

Recent months have seen a series of fresh scandals at Westminster, including an MP being revealed to have watched pornography in the House of Commons. 

The Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development study, commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Compassionate Politics, was based on the results of a survey of MPs and their staff carried out late last year. 

One in three respondents said they had experienced some form of conflict in the last 12 months.

Of those, more than one-fifth (22 per cent) reported being humiliated and 10 per cent said they had been verbally abused.

One in three respondents to the survey said they had experienced some form of conflict in the last 12 months

The survey also found deep distrust between MPs, with half of the survey respondents saying there was no respect between MPs and 71 per cent claimed MPs are suspicious of one another

The study found feelings of safety drop considerably when MPs and staff are required to work in public – such as at a constituency office

Incidents of sexual harassment and one case of sexual assault were also reported.

Of the cases mentioned by respondents, 65 per cent had gone unresolved and half said the independent complaints process was unhelpful.

The survey also found deep distrust between MPs, with half of the survey respondents saying there was no respect between MPs and 71 per cent claimed MPs are suspicious of one another.

The study, carried out with the support of House of Commons’ Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, comes after the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess at a constituency surgery in Leigh-On-Sea, Essex last October.

It found that while both MPs and their staff tend to feel reasonably safe when working on the parliamentary estate in Westminster.

But their feelings of safety drop considerably when they are required to work in public – such as at a constituency office.

More than a quarter (28 per cent) reported feeling unsafe when working outside of Parliament.

While 61 per cent of MPs said they feel ‘fairly safe’ in public that figure dropped to 54 per cent for MPs’ staff. 

Women were twice as likely as their male colleagues to report feeling unsafe when working in public.

In total, 315 people took part in the survey; 18 MPs and 297 staff.

Compassion in Politics, a cross-party thinktank that supports the work of the APPG, are calling for the establishment of an independent HR function to oversee the working conditions of MPs’ staff, as well as the introduction of mandatory induction and training for MPs.

Eleven of the 18 MPs who completed the survey said they agreed that mandatory training is required.

Recent months have seen a series of fresh scandals at Westminster, including an MP being revealed to have watched pornography in the House of Commons

Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle questioned whether there should be a fundamental overhaul of how parliamentary staff are employed

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, the APPG co-chair, said: ‘After weeks of scandal and controversy, it is clear to everyone that the working conditions in parliament are in need of significant reform.

‘For too long abuse and harassment have been ignored, overlooked, or explained away. It can’t go on. We need to draw a line in the sand.’ 

Sir Lindsay questioned whether there should be a fundamental overhaul of how parliamentary staff are employed, with the possibility of no longer making them direct employees of MPs. 

‘I want Parliament to be a good place to work – where we feel respected, supported, have a good work-life balance and the right training, and is free of discrimination, bullying and harassment,’ he said.

‘It is why I have called for a review of current working practices in Parliament, and in particular, to examine the current structure whereby MPs employ their staff directly.

‘The question is: should someone else – or an outside body – employ the staff, as long as the MP has the right to choose them?’

Jennifer Nadel, co-director of Compassion in Politics, said: ‘We’ve got a political system that is high on conflict and low on compassion. 

‘As this report shows – that’s damaging to the people who work within it and destructive to those it is meant to serve.

‘Fixing the broken machinery of parliament is not beyond us. We have decades of research available that tells us how to build functioning, effective, and inclusive workplaces. All we need is the will.

‘For too long we have clung to traditional rules and processes, even after they have long proven ineffective. We don’t want a hand-me-down parliament – we want the gold standard.’

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