Holyrood adopts new policy on sexual harassment

A new policy on sexual harassment has come into force at the Scottish Parliament.

Existing guidelines were reviewed in the wake of concerns about sexual harassment in Scottish politics.

The new policy applies to all those working in and for the parliament, including in constituency and regional offices, and covers those undertaking parliamentary duties at Holyrood or elsewhere.

In a joint letter, presiding officer Ken Macintosh and chief executive Sir Paul Grice said: “The aim of this policy is to create an environment which is free from sexual harassment and sexist behaviour.

“We will do this by being clear about the behaviours that are unacceptable and by fostering a culture of respect which ensures a safe, secure, and welcoming environment.”

Sexual harassment
Presiding officer Ken Macintosh (right) and Parliament chief executive Sir Paul Grice at Holyrood (Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament/PA)

The letter continues: “Everyone who works in or for the parliament will be able to access the independent support service and any formal complaints of sexual harassment will be investigated independently of the relevant employer or political party.”

The policy change follows a survey which found 30% of women and 6% of men had experienced sexual harassment or sexism while working at Holyrood.

It sets out a zero-tolerance approach and outlines examples of sexist behaviour including using different language to describe attributes based on gender, such as saying a man is decisive but a woman aggressive.

It also gives instances of sexual harassment, including unwanted persistent attention to form an intimate relationship.

The independent support service includes a confidential helpline available Monday to Friday from 9am to 10pm.

The service also provides access to counsellors and an advocacy worker and will be a central point for the submission of any formal sexual assault complaints.

Culture of respect training was introduced at Holyrood in November last year in response to concerns over sexual harassment.

Nearly 1,100 people have attended and the training will end later this month.

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