Research perspectives

Parliamentary workers left “woefully unprotected” from sexual harassment says Fawcett Society

A report by equality charity the Fawcett Society and law firm Hogan Lovells has found that UK legislation around sexual harassment in politics is behind that of countries such as Australia, Denmark and New Zealand. In those countries all MPs, staff and volunteers are protected against harassment in their roles.

Part 5 of the Equality Act protects employees against sexual harassment and discrimination at work. However, as they are elected representatives and not employees, MPs are not covered by the legislation. There is also a lack of legal protection for peers in the House of Lords and no formal protections for volunteers in either House, despite many people working voluntarily for political parties.

People working in Westminster are also left vulnerable to third-party harassment. Each MP is legally a separate employer, as well as many peers, which the report says “creates a complex web of employment relationships under one roof”. If they are harassed by an MP or peer, contractor or external visitor, staff are offered no legal protection unless they are employed by the person behaving inappropriately.