Review finds there is still work to do on Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme
An 18-month review into Parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) by HR director Alison Stanley has found “much progress” has been made, but has raised concerns over issues around operation and process, and equal access for diverse groups.
The review concluded the scheme, set up in 2018 as a new way of dealing with allegations of bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in Westminster was now “embedded and operating for all groups across Parliament” and that there were “high levels of awareness of the Scheme and the Helpline due to the strong focus on communication”.
The ICGS comprises a Helpline, and an Independent Investigation service to investigate complaints against staff of either House, MPs, or MPs’ staff, described by Stanley in the report as a “sophisticated workplace policy”.
She said: “During the review I was struck by the commitment expressed to me from those at every level in the Parliamentary community to the Scheme both as a complaints process but also as a signal of the intent to building a workplace culture of dignity and respect.”
However, Stanley raised concerns about several issues that she concluded were “impacting on the success of the Scheme and the confidence in it.” The report said they included an operation and processes that had become “over complex”. It added there was “a perception amongst some that it is a stressful, isolating and very lengthy process.”
As a result, she recommended the ICGS team “review and streamline all process steps at each stage from seeking support and advice to the Helpline to the investigation, removing duplication and being clear as to the purpose of each step taken,” as well as a number of changes to the policy and procedure around bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct.
The report also concluded that the ICGS team needed to develop better “routeways for informal resolution” away from the central process, “drawing on the experience of the Independent Investigators with other organisations, and HR.”
The ICGS received overwhelmingly positive feedback on its promotion, with the vast majority of respondents aware of the new policies on bullying and sexual harassment. There was an improvement in confidence levels in the scheme, but “still at a lower level than would be wished”.
Stanley said there were three main reasons for this: the length of time investigations take, perception issues around confidentiality constraints meaning decisions and sanctions aren’t visible, and the perception the ICGS wouldn’t be an effective route given “particular features and dynamic of the employment context for MP’s staff.”