Parliamentary officials begin internal comms campaign to help staff stand up to bullies

Senior officials will show staff at the House of Commons how to stand up to bullies by taking part in a role play in a film being shown to workers internally.

Parliamentary officials have begun an internal campaign against bullies
Parliamentary officials have begun an internal campaign against bullies

It is part of a new ‘language to challenge’ campaign prompted by a series of damaging allegations of bullying and sexual harassment against staff and MPs in the House of Commons, which resulted in an independent review by retired High Court judge Dame Laura Cox.

Her review, released this week, revealed that more than 200 people had come forward with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.

In some cases the allegations "involved shocking and  abhorrent behaviour".

The review described a "culture, cascading from the top down, of deference, subservience, acquiescence and silence, in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been able to thrive and have long been tolerated and concealed".

It outlined the "need for broad cultural change in the House and the need to restore the trust and confidence of the staff and of the wider public".

Dame Cox said: "The House may fail those it is trying to help and sustain further damage to its reputation and to its credibility as an employer if this report leads only to another series of initiatives and process changes."

She added: "I find it difficult to envisage how the necessary changes can be successfully delivered, and the confidence of the staff restored, under the current senior House administration."

A new behaviour code, supported by an independent complaints and grievance scheme, has been proposed by a cross-party steering group of parliamentary stakeholders.

This states that there will be zero tolerance of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct, and says: "Unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with seriously, independently and with effective sanctions."

A spokesperson from the House of Commons communications office told PRWeek: "Senior leadership figures from the House Service and the Lords Administration are fronting a new internal video campaign promoting the new Behaviour Code."

They added: "This shows senior leaders role-modelling positive bystander interventions, and discussing the importance of challenging unacceptable behaviour, including what this might look like in practice and how to encourage staff to use the new scheme by making sure they are aware of the options."

In addition, thousands of copies of a new brochure explaining the new code and scheme, along with posters promoting it, have been distributed to House of Commons staff, MPs and their staff, and all constituency offices across the country.

Briefing events for staff will take place in the next few weeks, which will be livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person and for staff in constituency offices.

A key message of the comms strategy for the new scheme is that Parliament has taken urgent and comprehensive action to help prevent sexual harassment and bullying, and to improve internal processes for resolving these issues.

But action means more than words alone, according to the Cox review, which says: "Realistically the prospect of someone who has been bullied feeling able to speak up about their treatment, as envisaged, will obviously depend on the extent to which there is a real change in the culture presently operating in the House. The 'language to challenge' campaign will be important, but it will require clear commitment at the senior levels if it is to be effective."

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