Home » MoD faces fresh claims of ‘toxic’ culture as 99 cases investigated

MoD faces fresh claims of ‘toxic’ culture as 99 cases investigated

Exclusive: Allegations of ‘bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimisation’ being examined, official figures show

by Narges Mohammadi

The Ministry of Defence is facing fresh claims of harboring a toxic culture as figures reveal that nearly 100 allegations by civil servants of bullying and harassment are being investigated. Eleven claims were made in the first month of 2024 alone.

According to official government figures, 99 open cases of “bullying, harassment, discrimination and victimization” are currently being examined by ministry officials led by the defence secretary, Grant Shapps.

One case has been under investigation since 2021, while six were instigated in 2021 and 81 in 2023, in apparent breach of the government’s target for resolving such complaints within 120 days.

The figures, provided by the defence minister, Andrew Murrison, show that 11 allegations of bullying, discrimination and victimization were recorded on the MoD’s “defence business services case management system” in January this year.

The high number of cases at the start of the year was said by the department to be typical and related to people returning from a period off work.

In recent months, the department has been rocked by allegations of harboring a “toxic” culture. In a letter to the department’s permanent secretary in October last year by 60 female civil servants, allegations were made of women being “propositioned”, “groped” and “touched repeatedly” by male colleagues in a workplace culture they said was “hostile to women as equal and respected partners”.

The women said their “day-to-day professional lives are made difficult thanks to behaviors that would be considered toxic and inappropriate in public life, but that are tolerated at the MoD”.

The incidents were alleged to have occurred at the MoD’s headquarters in London and at overseas bases. As of last year, there were 60,640 civilian personnel in the MoD.

Maria Eagle MP, the shadow procurement minister, said there had been a lack of “grip” by the political leadership at the MoD, which was led by Ben Wallace until his resignation in August last year.

She said: “These new figures are more evidence of utterly unacceptable behaviour in the MoD and ministers’ failure to get to grips with deep challenges in defence. The defence secretary must take the lead and root this out.

“In government, Labour will legislate for an armed forces commissioner to act as a strong independent voice to improve the lives of serving personnel and their families.”

Ministers previously disclosed that the number and size of compensation payouts for bullying and harassment had doubled in two years. There were fewer than five in 2020-21, increasing to six in 2021-22 and to 12 in 2022-23. The average compensation sum rose from £100,500 in 2020-21 to £228,700 the following year and £235,600 in 2022-23.

The MoD has recently renewed its bullying hotline for staff, which is understood to have received hundreds of calls.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We do not tolerate abuse, bullying or discrimination of any kind, and all allegations are thoroughly investigated. We encourage anyone who believes they have experienced or witnessed unacceptable behaviour to report it, and while some cases can be complicated and take time, swift action is taken where possible.

“A range of measures have been introduced to improve the experience for everyone across the department, including improvements to reporting mechanisms, increased access to support, and a 24/7 anti-bullying helpline.”

Source: Guardian

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