Draft Sexual Harassment Policy for Palace of Westminster 

This sample sexual harassment policy is intended for use by existing regulatory bodies working at the Palace of Westminster to help them develop their own sexual harassment policies.
 It is based on international good practices and includes all the components which make a sexual harassment policy comprehensive. As such, it is not intended to be a collection of clauses from which Members can pick and choose. Instead, any effective policy must include most if not all of the content of this sample policy. 

The Policy Statement for the Palace of Westminster is committed to providing a safe environment for all its employees free from discrimination on any ground and from harassment at work including sexual harassment.  Palace of Westminster will operate a zero tolerance policy for any form of sexual harassment in the workplace, treat all incidents seriously and promptly investigate all allegations of sexual harassment. Any person found to have sexually harassed another will face disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal from employment regardless of existing position.

All complaints of sexual harassment will be taken seriously and treated with respect and in confidence. No one will be victimised for making such a complaint.

[Explanatory note: This explains in broad terms what the policy is about and sets out the intention of the organisation in adopting the policy.]

Definition of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated. It includes situations where a person is asked to engage in sexual activity as a condition of that person’s employment, as well as situations which create an environment which is hostile, intimidating or humiliating for the recipient.
Sexual harassment can involve one or more incidents and actions constituting harassment may be physical, verbal and non-verbal. 

Examples of conduct or behaviour which constitute sexual harassment include, but are not limited to:

Physical conduct

  Unwelcome physical contact including patting, pinching, stroking, kissing, hugging, fondling, or inappropriate touching.

Physical violence, including sexual assault
 Physical contact, e.g. touching, pinching

The use of job-related threats or rewards to solicit sexual favours

Verbal conduct
 Comments on a worker’s appearance, age, private life, etc.

 Sexual comments, stories and jokes
 Sexual advances
 Repeated and unwanted social invitations for dates or physical intimacy
 Insults based on the sex of the worker
 Condescending or paternalistic remarks

 Sending sexually explicit messages (by phone or by email) Non-verbal conduct

 Leering

Display of sexually explicit or suggestive material Sexually-suggestive gestures
[Explanatory note: This section defines sexual harassment. If examples are included, it is important to note that they are not exhaustive and that sexual harassment can include any conduct of a sexual nature which is unwanted and unwelcome by the recipient.]
Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of their sex and of the sex of the harasser. The Palace of Westminster recognises that sexual harassment may also occur between people of the same sex. What matters is that the sexual conduct is unwanted and unwelcome by the person against whom the conduct is directed.

[Explanatory note: This recognises that men and women can be victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.]

 The Palace of Westminster  recognises that sexual harassment is a manifestation of power relationships and often occurs within unequal relationships in the workplace, for example between Member and employee.
Anyone, including employees of The Palace of Westminster, sitting MPs, Peers, constituency workers, casual workers, contractors, interns or visitors who sexually harasses another will be reprimanded in accordance with this internal policy.

[Although it can be difficult for the Palace of Westminster  to deal with sexual harassment when it is perpetrated by third parties, the Palace of Westminster is nonetheless responsible for the well-being of its workers if the harassment occurs during work. For example, where employees or interns are in contact with third parties, such as hotels or restaurants, should have specific policies to deal with sexual harassment of its workers by customers.]

All sexual harassment is prohibited whether it takes place within the Palace of Westminster premises or outside, including at social events, overseas trips, training sessions or conferences sponsored by individual political parties.

[Explanatory note: This recognises that harassment can take place both at the Palace of Westminster , but also at social event where sexual harassment may be more likely to occur.]

Complaints procedures

[Explanatory note: Individuals who deal with sexual harassment complaints should be trained specifically on this issue and on the nature of sexual harassment.

Further, victims of sexual harassment may want to resolve the matter in different ways. Some may be happy with an informal resolution and for the matter to stop, others may want more formal measures. In addition, informal resolution mechanisms may be inappropriate where the allegation is serious or where the harasser is also the victim’s supervisor and or employer. It is important that the Palace of Westminster complaints procedures reflect these different needs and ways of resolving conflict.]

Anyone who is subject to sexual harassment should, if possible, inform the alleged harasser that the conduct is unwanted and unwelcome. The Palace of Westminster recognises that sexual harassment may occur in unequal relationships (i.e. between an MP and his/her employee) and that it may not be possible for the victim to inform the alleged harasser.
If a victim cannot directly approach an alleged harasser, he/she can approach one of the designated staff members responsible for receiving complaints of sexual harassment. This person could be another supervisor, a member of the Parliamentary Standards, etc.

When a designated person receives a complaint of sexual harassment, he/she will:
 immediately record the dates, times and facts of the incident(s)
 ascertain the views of the victim as to what outcome he/she wants
 ensure that the victim understands the company’s procedures for dealing with the complaint
 discuss and agree the next steps: either informal or formal complaint, on the understanding
that choosing to resolve the matter informally does not preclude the victim from pursuing a
formal complaint if he/she is not satisfied with the outcome
 keep a confidential record of all discussions
 respect the choice of the victim
 ensure that the victim knows that they can lodge the complaint outside of thePalace of Westminster 
through the relevant country/legal framework
[Explanatory note: It is important to give the victim options for reporting the matter and this will depend on the structure of the company. The need for options for reporting is very important because having one person only to report to limits the ability of the victim to avail themselves of the complaints procedure. If for example, the harasser is also the designated person, the designated person is away on leave, or the victim would rather report it to a woman than a man or to a man than a women and the designated person is a man, woman etc.]
Throughout the complaints procedure, a victim is entitled to be helped by a counsellor within the company. The Palace of Westminster will nominate a number of counsellors and provide them with special training to enable them to assist victims of sexual harassment. The Palace of Westminster recognises that because sexual harassment often occurs in unequal relationships within the workplace, victims often feel that they cannot come forward. The Palace of Westminster understands the need to support victims in making complaints.
[Explanatory note: In many large companies, certain employees are designated as counsellors to help victims of sexual harassment navigate the complaints procedures.]

Informal complaints mechanism

If the victim wishes to deal with the matter informally, the designated person will:
 give an opportunity to the alleged harasser to respond to the complaint  ensure that the alleged harasser understands the complaints mechanism, facilitate discussion between both parties to achieve an informal resolution which is acceptable to the complainant, or refer the matter to a designated mediator within the Palace of Westminster to resolve the matter

 ensure that a confidential record is kept of what happens
 follow up after the outcome of the complaints mechanism to ensure that the behaviour has
 ensure that the above is done speedily and within […] days of the complaint being made

Formal complaints mechanism

If the victim wants to make a formal complaint or if the informal complaint mechanism has not led to a satisfactory outcome for the victim, a formal complaint mechanism should be used to resolve the matter.
The designated person who initially received the complaint will refer the matter to a senior designated officer to instigate a formal investigation. The designated officer may deal with the matter him/herself, refer the matter to an internal or external investigator or refer it to a committee of three others in accordance with this policy. 
The person carrying out the investigation will:
 interview the victim and the alleged harasser separately
 interview other relevant third parties separately
 decide whether or not the incident(s) of sexual harassment took place
 produce a report detailing the investigations, findings and any recommendations
 if the harassment took place, decide what the appropriate remedy for the victim is, in
consultation with the victim (i.e.- an apology, a change to working arrangements, a promotion if the victim was demoted as a result of the harassment, training for the harasser, discipline, suspension, dismissal)
 follow up to ensure that the recommendations are implemented, that the behaviour has stopped and that the victim is satisfied with the outcome
if it cannot determine that the harassment took place, he/she may still make recommendations to ensure proper functioning of the workplace
 keep a record of all actions taken
 ensure that the all records concerning the matter are kept confidential
 ensure that the process is done as quickly as possible and in any event within 7 days of the
complaint being made
[Explanatory note:  the Palace of Westminster will need to create specific complaints mechanism to meet it’s needs. For instance, if a committee is created to carry out the investigation, the committee should be set up bearing in mind gender-balance and could include a member of staff from the Palace of Westminster, a worker representative, etc. The Committee members, just as Palace of Westminster personnel or investigators dealing with sexual harassment, should be trained on understanding and deciding what constitutes sexual harassment, how to investigate it, etc.
It is also vital that the wishes and needs of the victim are incorporated into the outcome of the complaints mechanism. For example, if it is found that a victim was harassed by a colleague and that they work together on a daily basis, the views of the victim should be ascertained before making a decision on re-organising the office. For example, the victim may not want to be moved to a different department and as the victim, he/she should be entitled to decide this and not be re-victimised by being forced to move within the Palace of Westminster.]

Outside complaints mechanisms

A person who has been subject to sexual harassment can also make a complaint outside of the Palace of Westminster. 
[Explanatory note: This section is intended to inform employees of their rights to use other national mechanisms that may be available to them. Some employees may not feel comfortable bringing a complaint through the disciplinary measures at work and they should be informed of their right to seek redress elsewhere. The internal policy of the Palace of Westminster cannot prevent an employee from also using the national mechanisms available to him or her.]

Sanctions and disciplinary measures

Anyone who has been found to have sexually harassed another person under the terms of this policy is liable to any of the following sanctions:

 verbal or written warning
 adverse performance evaluation  reduction in wages
 transfer
 demotion
 suspension
 dismissal (and a by election called if a Member)
The nature of the sanctions will depend on the gravity and extent of the harassment. Suitable deterrent sanctions will be applied to ensure that incidents of sexual harassment are not treated as trivial. 

Certain serious cases, including physical violence, will result in the immediate dismissal of the harasser.
[Explanatory note: The policy should be applied consistently throughout the Palace of Westminster and sanctions should be based on the gravity of the conduct. Suitable deterrent sanctions should be included in workplace policies on sexual harassment to ensure that incidences of sexual harassment are not treated as trivial events. They should become part and parcel of Palace of Westminster regulations and/or collective labour agreements].

Implementation of this policy

Palace of Westminster will ensure that this policy is widely disseminated to all relevant persons. It will be included in the staff handbook. All new employees including Members must be trained on the content of this policy as part of their induction into the Palace of Westminster.

Every year, the Palace of Westminster will require all employees to attend a refresher training course on the content of this policy.
It is the responsibility of every Member to ensure that all his/her employees are aware of the policy. 

Explanatory note: This creates an obligation on the Palace of Westminster to ensure that all employees are aware of the policy.]

Monitoring and evaluation

Palace of Westminster recognises the importance of monitoring this sexual harassment policy and will ensure that it anonymously collects statistics and data as to how it is used and whether or not it is effective.
Compliance officers and those responsible for dealing with sexual harassment cases will report on compliance with this policy, including the number of incidents, how they were dealt with, and any recommendations made. This will be done on a yearly basis. As a result of this report,  the Palace of Westminster will evaluate the effectiveness of this policy and make any changes needed.

[Explanatory note: Monitoring and evaluation can be done through different means, including questionnaires completed by employees, feedback from victims or those who work in the complaints procedure. This is important to review the effectiveness of the policy and the complaints procedure.]


Harvey Weinstein: Why Women Don’t Tell

Image result for rose mcgowan charmed

Rose McGowan: One of the actresses who helped open the floodgates of sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein

So many women have come forward in the past seven days to reveal that they too had been groped, harassed or raped by Harvey Weinstein and day by day, the number is growing. In the past 24 hours alone, high profile and hugely successful actresses such as Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow have also come forward and told of their own experiences at the hands of Weinstein very early on in their careers. Weinstein’s wife has left him and he has now checked himself into a rehab facility for sex addition.

The most damning development of late has been the outing of Batman actor Ben Affleck for groping MTV host Hilarie Burton while a live TV interview was underway when she was just 19 to Affleck’s 29. The footage is as damning as it is deeply uncomfortable to watch.

Affleck has since issued an apology to Ms Burton ‘I acted inappropriately towards Ms Burton and I sincerely apologize’. Some would say that this is too little and 14 years too late but Affleck needs as much damage control considering he has a number of high profile movie releases coming out in the next few months.

Affleck is by no means the only man to have come forward to condemn Weinstein, others have also done the same including George Clooney, Seth Rogan, Mark Ruffalo and most recently Quentin Tarantino. But what is striking is that these men claim to have had no knowledge or even an inkling of what has going on right under their noses. Tarantino has issued a sort of holding statement claiming he is still trying to ‘process’ the series of lurid allegations. I find this deeply dubious. Tarantino dated Mira Sorvino, one of the actresses that have come forward to expose Weinstein. How could he have not known? 

There are many, many reasons why women won’t come forward about the sexual harassment they suffer in the workplace. Often they may delay and try to suppress their experiences, at times to great personal cost to health and mental well-being.

These women know that what has happened to them is wrong but accept that they are not in a position to speak out so try to move on with their lives the best they can. Just because they don’t speak out doesn’t mean their harassment and abuse didn’t happen. It just means that their attackers have more experience or bette resources to shut down any attempt at exposure. 

The perpetrator is nearly always in a position of power, authority or responsibility and has access to young, impressionable and naïve victims. However, in my own experience, the perpetrators often fall into two distinct camps; the charmer or the bully.

Charmers are friendly, personable and very accommodating so that if any kinds of allegations are ever made against them, others will find it difficult to believe that they are capable of these things. They specialise in the long game and will spend time identifying, grooming and manipulating their potential victims. That is not to say that charmers can’t be bullies; they can but they realise that it is often easier to get what they want with charm and sophistication than sheer bullishness.

Bullies are the opposite. They are often in positions of incredible power and have the clout to shut down any kind of opposition, investigation or rumour against them. They also don’t discriminate against who they want to abuse; everyone is fair game and fresh meat. They have the power to make or break a person; they know it and try to flaunt it at every opportunity.

This most definitely seems to be the case with Weinstein, who, having reached the pinnacles of success in Hollywood could now employ an army of lackeys to not only procure him fresh victims, but also to then cover up his attacks with money, professional success or career meltdown.

Indeed, some of the actresses that were the first to speak out about it all had had a very promising start in Hollywood for it then to have vanished into thin air. I remember watching Rose McGowan in Charmed and absolutely loved her character Paige. Then she disappeared and there were regular stories of her break downs and unstable mental health. Mira Sorvino, another actress who could and should have been one of the greats, also disappeared and has had a patchy career path since.

Of course, now it all makes sense.

For over twenty years, Weinstein got away with his unchecked reign of abuse because those around him enabled it in the first place, covered it up for him or turned a blind eye and pretended that it never happened. All of these people are also complicit and should be named and shamed.

Some of the women abused by Weinstein were struggling actresses or models who were looking for their big ‘break’ and Richard Hillgrove, founder of 6 Hillgrove Public Relations, claimed that Hollywood was a ‘surreal world’ and that sexual harassment was ‘par of the course for Hollywood’. These comments completely undermine the victims by essentially placing blame at their feet; ‘you know that if you want to make it big then you have to accept being groped, raped or harassed’. This kind of thinking is what has caused this type of behaviour to be normalised over the years when it should have been stamped out decades ago.

Watching all this unfold has been both cathartic but also detrimental. It has brought back a lot of traumatic and unpleasant memories for me of the time I was not only sexually harassed but also assaulted some five years ago. It also made me think of my position at the time, and how exposed I was in an isolated, lonely world as a deeply vulnerable person. My attacker was a senior lawyer for a political party who worked closely with the police, and hailed from a wealthy family who were termed ‘the money men’. The person who had sexually harassed me was also a member of this family. When I tried to bring everything to the attention of my colleagues, I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not ‘piss off the money men’. There was no way I could go to the police or raise a grievance without drawing a great big target above my head.

Since I started writing this blog, many women have come forward to tell me of their own experiences. Just today, a health professional told me she had been a victim of date rape some 20 years earlier but didn’t do anything because her attacker was a doctor. She also felt ashamed and responsible for what happened to her that night.

The fear of not being believed or then being blamed for the harassment is also one of the biggest reasons why women are too afraid to say anything. A former senior civil servant told me that she was regularly pestered for sex by her senior colleagues; when she tried to raise it with her HR department; she was advised to lengthen her skirts and not to dress so provocatively. Another woman was asked about her favourite sexual positions by a senior colleague; when she raised this with her line manager, she was sacked.

The abuse isn’t just within the four walls of the workplace. Just looking at a selection of the comments made after Affleck’s assault was reported on an online news platform show just how difficult it is for victims to come forward:

‘I would love to be groped by 2003 Ben Affleck’

‘Womans should not wear clothing wich is to be too tight’ (sic)

‘if this was such a HUGE transgression, worthy of remembering it for years, then you’ve had a pretty easy life! Pardon me, flower. I didn’t know you were so SENSITIVE!’

‘He (Affleck) apologized for that? Still doesn’t appear to be a grope. Whatever. This video must be very misleading’.

There are so many more reasons why women don’t tell. But perhaps now, we can listen, support and hear each other’s stories while we come to terms with our experiences.


Harvey Weinstein, Rose McGowan, Hollywood, Sexual Harassment, Ben Affleck, Hilarie Burton, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Miramax


Society of Asian Lawyers brands CSE campaigner’s comments ‘offensive’.

Image result for nazir afzal

Two articles appeared yesterday on the reactions to the ongoing issues around tackling Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in the UK; one which detailed the reactions of the womenfolk of the men who groomed and raped young girls and the second, the effectively no platforming of a prominent CSE campaigner by the Society of Asian Lawyers.

Both reactions were deep seated denials that there is even a problem with the fact that, of the recent prosecuted cases, a large majority of the defendants hail from a mainly Pakistani- heritage background.

Let’s start with the Society of Asian Lawyers withdrawing their invite as a keynote speaker to Nazir Afzal to their annual Society of Asian Lawyers Ball for his ‘offensive’ comments. These comments were made in August following the convictions of 17 men in a Newcastle sex grooming case and can be read here. (I will address the first article in a separate piece)

So what was so ‘offensive’ with the comments made by Afzal in his article (titled “Will my Asian community NOW end the vile misogyny behind the latest child sex gang scandal? No, too many think they still have to licence abuse”)

Nearly everything that Afzal mentioned has been repeatedly witnessed, by police officers, social workers, campaigners and the families of the victims. So why did the SAL take offence at Afzal’s comments?

Could it be because of the millions of pounds that the tax payer has had to pay towards the legal costs of defending the defendants in trials that end up costing the UK legal system not just millions in terms of money but also the time spent investigating these sensitive cases and the court time allocated to each trial?
If this doesn’t make sense, let me break it down for a little further.

In an average CSE case based on recent trials, the defendants will number around 4. The majority of these defendants will be eligible to receive legal aid from the Legal Aid Agency (LAA), thus resulting in potential windfalls for the law firms defending them.

The law firm will hire the most expensive counsel (barristers) available, often costing the public purse tens of thousands of pounds each. Multiply that by each defendant and you are already looking at £40,000 plus.

Put in another way, when each defendant hires separate counsel, the victims are subjected to further and more lengthier questioning, often the same questions repeated again and again.

If you add in additional costs such as travel, translation, and witness prep, the costs just get higher and higher, all eventually met by the public purse.

It is not often in the interest of the lawyers to suggest a guilty plea to their defendants even when there is solid evidence in the form of DNA evidence or CCTV footage because they would lose out on hundreds of thousands of pounds in the form of legal aid. Little to no consideration is given to the victims and how lengthy trials could impact their lives and their mental and emotional states.

Is it any wonder that victims have been so reluctant to come forward to report their ordeals?

You would think that an eventual guilty verdict at the end of a trial would mean that the whole matter can be put to rest.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

Some lawyers will submit appeals against the verdicts for no other reason than it means more hours billed, hence more money from the LAA. In the case of Adil Khan, a defendant found guilty of CSE offences and impregnating a child under 16 in the Rochdale sex grooming case, his lawyer Mohammed Alias Yousaf (formerly of Chambers Solicitors, now partner at Liberty Solicitors) Bradford, submitted an appeal based upon tweets made by Nick Griffin, the former leader of the British National Party. DNA evidence of Khan’s criminality was obtained after the child rape victim underwent an abortion. (Incidentally, Yousaf himself was investigated after he admitted leaking the names of the child rape victims of the Rochdale sex grooming gang to a member of the public)

Khan, along with four others, was allowed further public funds for appealing against his deportation after his sentence was served.

So, to recap; the Society of Asian Lawyers are upset with Nazir Afzal for highlighting that fact the majority of the defendants in CSE cases are from a Pakistani-heritage background and that they are brought up in an environment of abject misogyny and sense of entitlement. Their response has been to withdraw an offer to speak as a keynote speaker at an annual Society of Asian Lawyers Ball.

So let me ask this burning question: 

Since when did protecting the feelings of paedophiles that preyed upon our vulnerable children and the money that goes into defending them become more important than highlighting and stopping the insidious and appalling CSE crimes?

 **Please note: the above scenarios I have described in terms of the conduct of law firms when defending defendants charged with CSE offences may apply to all law firms, not necessarily those who are members of the Society of Asian Lawyers.