Women working in the House of Commons Service have accused three MPs of bullying and harassment, according to an investigation by BBC Two’s Newsnight.
The Conservative Party’s Mark Pritchard, Labour’s Paul Farrelly and House of Commons Speaker John Bercow have all been named in claims by female staff members. All three denied the allegations against them.
Much like other women who came forward during the height of the #MeToo movement, the House staff members said that they complained years ago but weren’t taken seriously. Others said that they had been afraid to speak up for fear that they would lose their jobs while the MPs remained in office.
This story has become all too common across many different professional fields: entertainment, sports, government, television news, and so on. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to share such a difficult part of one’s past, and the staff members deserve to be listened to and their claims properly investigated.
The accusations made by the House staff members range from physical abuse to verbal berating. Other MPs have called for a more thorough inquiry into the situation with Parliament’s Respect policy in mind, which was revised in 2014 to prevent harassment.
The House of Commons itself released a statement saying it has zero tolerance for bullying or harassment, but it remains to be seen what official action will be taken.
Harassment of women in the workplace has been an endemic problem for some time now, yet it has only come to the forefront of international discussion quite recently. According to a BBC survey conducted in October 2017, 53 percent of women and 20 percent of men in the U.K. have been sexually harassed at work or a place of study. 63 percent of female victims and 79 percent of male victims didn’t report it.
It’s important that we keep talking about this issue and hold people in any career accountable for their actions. Too often, women who bring forward allegations of harassment are blamed, discredited, not believed or fired. That behavior must stop to make workplaces safer.
The responsibility for addressing harassment should not lie only with female employees. Men need to take an active role in evaluating our own behaviors and not standing for any form of mistreatment.
Creating an environment in which people don’t feel like they have to keep quiet about harassment for risk of hurting their careers is the first step towards solving this problem, but men have to join with and support women who come forward in order for this to happen.
In the case of the women who have spoken out against the MPs, the House of Commons should take all possible steps to investigate their claims and punish those who are found guilty.
If any of the MPs did indeed harass or bully their staffers, they should be held to the same standard that anyone else would be – the same standard that others who were exposed by the #MeToo movement were as well.
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