On 26 February 2019, the Fawcett Society and Hogan Lovells published a new report highlighting gaps in equality legislation which leave Parliament “above the law” on sexual harassment. The report explained that MPs and Peers are exempt from Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010, meaning that volunteers and staff who experience sexual harassment are not protected by the legislation. The same applies for those sexually harassed by a third party. The report also found that 73% of men and women believe that the actions taken to tackle unwanted sexual behaviour in politics needed to change (opinions were generally equal across gender, political affiliation and age). It also found that a significant portion of people (70%) supported removing guilty MPs from office as a sanction for such behaviour. 23% said the way sexual harassment is currently dealt with in politics has made them less likely to vote.
Among other things, the Fawcett Society is calling for legislative reform to ensure protection for all employees in Parliament, with the report referencing the laws in Australia, Denmark and New Zealand as exemplary. It also calls for independent complaints policies within political parties to successfully address sexual harassment.
Counsel at Hogan Lovells, Jo Broadbent, said “As a national legislature, making laws about employment, Parliament should itself be setting an example for all those responsible for the working environments of people in the UK.”
Source: New Fawcett report reveals how glaring gaps in equality legislation leave Parliament “above the law” on sexual harassment, fawcettsociety.org.uk, 26 February 2019.