Scottish Parliament sexual harassment helpline takes nine calls

18 January 2018, 12:28

scottish parliament

A sexual harassment helpline at the Scottish Parliament has taken nine calls since being set up in November, MSPs have heard.

The confidential phone line was launched on November 6 after allegations of sexual misconduct at Holyrood emerged in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and accusations sweeping Westminster.

The parliament's head of organisational development Lorna Foreman told Holyrood's Standards and Public Appointments Committee: "We have had nine calls since November but I think it is important to note that is only one route people can seek advice."

She said people are also seeking advice from parties and there are "a number of issues being dealt with there", while complaints could also be raised through line management and employers.

Questioned on criticism that the line is only open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, she said details had been given of the existing general advice line for employees which is open round the clock.

Ms Foreman gave evidence on the several different processes for dealing with allegations of harassment or inappropriate behaviour at parliament and agreed that it was time there was a "less complex" system.

Group head of committees and outreach at the parliament, Susan Duffy, said the confidential survey on sexual harassment sent to all building users at Holyrood has had a "good return rate" which is currently around 60%.

She said there had been a "very good response rate" from MSPs and returns from MSPs' staff and parliament staff were "extremely high".

The survey closes on Friday and the committee heard results are expected to be made public in March along with an action plan.

Ms Duffy said action would be guided by survey results but consideration is being given to training everyone at parliament on what constitutes harassment and the impact of certain behaviours.

She said: "We're committed to taking this work forward and continuing to have a workplace where people feel valued and respected."

Ms Duffy said the survey was designed to ensure respondents did not identify individuals as it was intended to "gather views on the culture within the parliament rather than being some kind of anonymous mechanism to make a complaint".

She said the survey contains warning against identification and if anyone is named in the survey in connection with an allegation the information will be "destroyed".