Ministerial Code tinkering not enough to protect staff from harassment and bullying, FDA union says

Tuesday 9th January, 2018
[For immediate release]

Responding to the latest revisions to the Ministerial Code, aimed at clamping down on harassment and bullying, FDA Assistant General Secretary Naomi Cooke said:

"Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected at work, but this behind-closed-doors tinkering with the Ministerial Code will do nothing to reassure civil servants that there's a proper system in place to protect them from harassment and bullying.

"The Code talks tough, saying that harassment and bullying by ministers 'will not be tolerated' – but it includes no detail on who will investigate their behaviour or how any sanctions will ultimately be enforced.

“There is nothing, for example, on what will happen to a minister who fails to treat a member of staff with ‘consideration and respect', or any sense that ministers will be subject to the kind of fair and transparent investigation process that any good modern employer would have in place.

“As a trade union representing thousands of public servants, we know that there’s a real crisis of confidence in the way complaints of harassment and bullying are handled. Just 14% of public servants in a recent FDA survey said they were confident a complaint against someone not directly employed by their organisation – such as a minister, contractor, party employee or adviser – would be properly investigated and lead to sanctions.

“These changes to the Ministerial Code represent a real missed opportunity, and Number 10 has ducked the chance to consult widely among the people who actually represent public servants. Instead, we’re left with a few warm words and a system that will continue to fail the very people it is meant to protect."

Notes for editors
1. The FDA is the union for senior managers and professionals in public service, representing more than 18,000 members at grades HEO and above. Membership includes senior civil servants, Government policy advisors, prosecutors, diplomats, tax professionals, economists, solicitors and other professionals working across the Government and the NHS.

2. The FDA launched its Harassment and Bullying survey in the wake of high-profile complaints of harassment in several industries, including politics and the media.

The survey was conducted over a four-week period between November and December 2017. A total of 750 members responded, working in more than 45 different employers across the civil service.

For more detail on the findings, which will be published in full at a later date, click here.

3. The FDA (formerly the First Division Association) should be referred to simply as "The FDA" and can be described as "the senior public servants' union".

4. The FDA can be found on Twitter @FDA_union and at www.fda.org.uk. General Secretary Dave Penman tweets as @FDAGenSec.

5. For further information contact:
• Matt Foster, Communications Officer, tel: 07982 514 524.
• Tommy Newell, Communications Officer, tel: 020 7401 5555 or 07738 729 145.