One of five people working at UK parliament report sexual harassment

FRENCH PRESS AGENCY - AFP
LONDON
Published
Norman Fowler, the new Lord Speaker speaks in the House of Lords chamber during his first sitting, in London, Britain September 5, 2016. (Reuters Photo)
Norman Fowler, the new Lord Speaker speaks in the House of Lords chamber during his first sitting, in London, Britain September 5, 2016. (Reuters Photo)

Around one in five people employed at the British parliament have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment at work during the past year, according to a survey in a parliamentary report out on Thursday.

More than a third, and nearly half of women, have reported suffering from non-sexual harassment or bullying over the same time period.

Victims recorded their experiences to a group of lawmakers focused on tackling sexual harassment and bullying in the British parliament after a spate of allegations emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The cross-party body has called for a raft of measures to offer better protection and support for staff and Members of Parliament, including a new code of behavior and creating an independent and confidential complaints procedure.

The group also recommended expanding and reforming the roles of parliamentary commissioners for standards and other relevant committees, while introducing broad sanctions, ranging from written apologies and mandatory training to dismissals and lawmaker recalls.

Andrea Leadsom MP, Leader of the House of Commons and chair of the panel, said the release of the report was "a big day for parliament and our politics".

"The new independent procedure will demonstrate that we want to be the best parliament in the world when it comes to treating everyone who works here with dignity and respect.

"This is a major step in bringing about the culture change that Parliament needs."

The survey, open to various staff who work across Westminster, received responses from 1,377 people.

It found that bullying and harassment "have been a feature in the lives of many who work in or with Parliament" but noted the results for its prevalence "were broadly in line with what research would predict".

The fifth of workers reporting sexual harassment included witnessing sexually inappropriate behavior and featured double the number of female respondents than male.

Georgina Kester, who represented the lawmakers' staff on the panel, welcomed and endorsed the report and its proposals, saying they would go "a long way to combatting the bullying and harassment that staff have experienced".

"We look forward to staff being fully involved in the next stages of the rollout of the disciplinary processes, sanctions, training and support mechanisms," she added.

The recommendations will now be considered by both Houses of Parliament, with a debate set to begin in late February.

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