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Thu, 4 June 2020

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EXCL House of Lords aides win access to abuse hotline in wake of Westminster harassment storm

EXCL House of Lords aides win access to abuse hotline in wake of Westminster harassment storm

Emilio Casalicchio

2 min read

Aides working in the House of Lords have been granted access to a Commons anti-bullying hotline in the wake of the Westminster sexual harassment scandal, PoliticsHome can reveal.

For the first time, those working for peers will be able to call the Employee Assistance Programme - known as the Speaker’s Anti-Bullying Hotline after John Bercow set it up in 2014 - if they have any problems at work or at home.

Aides in the Upper Chamber previously had nowhere to turn if they suffered workplace abuse.

The development comes as Theresa May and the other party leaders agreed “important” steps to deal with harassment in parliament after the explosion in abuse claims.

In recent days Michael Fallon quit as Defence Secretary and Chris Pincher resigned from the whips office – both over allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the past.

An email sent out to Lords staff yesterday, and seen by PoliticsHome, said any kind of harassment in the workplace was “completely unacceptable”.

“Everyone who comes to work has the right to do so in an atmosphere free from bullying and harassment,” it explained.

“To help support staff employed by members of the House of Lords, the House of Lords Administration has arranged access to an employee assistance helpline.

“This helpline is free to call, completely confidential and available 24/7. The service is provided by an independent organisation that provides the same service to staff of MPs.”

The helpline was set up to give Commons staff a place to turn if they have health, financial, or workplace issues. It is also available for staff feeling stressed at home or suffering relationship problems.

One aide to a crossbench peer told PoliticsHome: "I find it hard to believe that this kind of service didn't already exist.

"This is an about-time, common-sense initiative that will help colleagues who might be facing abuse or harassment while working in the House of Lords.

"It’s great that staff now know they have somewhere to turn if they need it."

Earlier this year, PoliticsHome revealed more than four calls a week were made to hotline by Commons staff in 2016, more than double the number for the previous year. 

Staff members in the Lords who do not work for a specific peer have had a support hotline available to them for some 20 years.

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