Exit interviews scheduled for politicians as one in seven reports bullying

Exit interviews for political staff working in the Oireachtas are being considered after a number of reports of intimidation.

A proposed policy document, seen by the Irish Examiner, seeks to update the existing policy and principle statement on dignity and respect implemented within Leinster House for political representatives and their staff.

The current policy was revised in the first quarter of 2021 and a number of “gaps” were noted in terms of providing adequate reporting and complaints mechanisms for political staff.

According to senior Oireachtas sources, the move was triggered by a number of media reports of alleged intimidation by political representatives against their office staff and some cases brought forward. before the Workplace Relations Commission.

In 2019, a survey conducted by the Houses of the Oireachtas found that nearly one in seven workers in the Oireachtas had experienced harassment.

Eight percent said they had experienced harassment such as discrimination or derogatory comments, while 3% said they had been sexually harassed.

However, the report’s authors said it was “dangerous to draw conclusions from the small number of samples regarding harassment and sexual harassment behavior.”

“The problem is that although these employees are paid by Leinster House, they are not employed by Leinster House,” said a source from Oireachtas.

Some political parties received complaints of intimidation and did nothing about it.

“Where are they supposed to go? Either they put up with it or they go.

“And if you work for a freelance, you’re hanging on by a thread.”

When asked if this new policy would have been proposed without media coverage of the bullying reports, the source replied, “Not in a million years.”

It has already been reported that former staff members who complained to Oireachtas HR felt that there was not much Leinster House could do because the parliamentary and secretarial assistants (AP and SA ) worked directly for individual politicians.

In most cases, PAs and SAs work in representatives’ offices alongside the politician for most of the day.

PAs receive a starting salary of € 41,092 while SAs receive € 23,180.

The proposed policy document would seek to “raise awareness” of the current policy on dignity and respect “to increase participation and address factors that prevent people from filing complaints” and “to increase knowledge and awareness. to the supports available for political staff ”.

He would also seek to “promote communication and networking between political staff regardless of their political affiliation.”

The Oireachtas Commission, made up of a number of TDs, Senators, Ceann Comhairle and Cathaoirleach from Seanad, was invited to vote on the piloting of the new updated program for a year, estimated to cost 15 000 €.

It has not yet been established who will conduct the exit interviews, but it is expected that they will be conducted by external human resources facilitators.

The vision of the Oireachtas Commission is “A parliament that works for the people”, according to a policy document and the purpose of the engagement plan is “to develop and improve engagement with political staff as members of the parliamentary community and as a vital support to members and political parties / groups “.

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