Parliament has become ‘a dysfunctional mess’, with thousands of workers left with no proper employment protection, according to a shadow minister.
Labour’s Liz McInnes says recent allegations of sexual harassment and abuse within Westminster have exposed the fact there are no real HR functions in place to guide MPs and their staff.
Her comments came as a petition was launched for Parliament to officially recognise Unite as an official trade unions for those working there.
Blogging for HuffPost UK, McInnes, a shadow foreign minister, said: “Parliament looks less like the seat of lawmakers and legislators and more like a truly dysfunctional workplace.
“How on earth did [it] evolve into this dysfunctional mass of 650 self-employed MPs, with no common workplace protection in place for the thousands of MPs’ staff? One answer to that question would be the lack of any genuine trade union involvement in the day-to-day running of Parliament, and in the determination of common staff terms and conditions.”
McInnes, who became an MP after winning a by-election in Heywood and Middleton in 2014, said a proper HR function should be set up to deal with common grievances, bullying, harassment and disciplinary issues, similar to those used within the NHS, where she used to work.
She also wants to see all Parliamentary staff urged to join a trade union - but said Conservative moves to dilute union powers had made harassment cases more difficult to be brought.
“Self-employment of MPs is basically a free-for-all, where MPs are allowed to pick and choose from standard job descriptions and employ staff on whatever job roles they decide are applicable, and there is no clear guidance given to staff or MPs on how to invoke grievance and disciplinary or any other procedures, she added.
“The Labour Party has a policy of encouraging all staff to join a trade union. The Tory party in government has consistently attacked and diluted trade union rights and has also made it much more difficult for cases of harassment to be heard, by introducing charges for tribunals.
“The government at the moment may be anguishing over how to make Parliament a safe place to work for everyone but judge them by their deeds, not their words.
“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel in order to drag Parliament into the 21st century. The building might be historic but the way we treat our staff doesn’t have to be.”
MPs have been urged to take “swift action” to tackle a disturbing culture of sexual harassment within Parliament, with Theresa May writing to Commons Speaker John Bercow to ask for his assistance.
Campaigners have called for a new system to be set up to investigate complaints, through which victims can also report incidents anonymously.
Labour is also setting up its own independent body to probe and deal with complaints, after activist Bex Bailey came forward to say she was raped at a party event six years ago.
A party spokesman said recommendations will be made to General Secretary Iain McNicol on ways the party can improve its complaints processes.