MPs’ employees have called for the protection of employment rights such as sick pay and parental leave if they move between parliamentary offices.
Currently, staff who move between MPs’ offices see their employment history “wiped clean” as each MP is seen as an individual employer. This means a person who has worked in the House of Commons for a number of years will lose key employment protections and rights from their first day in their new role as they are seen as a new starter.
Working in Parliament
A letter to the candidates for the next House of Commons Speaker says MPs’ staff should “enjoy the same rights as any other person in the UK who moves within an organisation”.
The letter, published in The House magazine and signed by more than 170 current and former parliamentary staff, says: “Whilst we understand that employment rights need to be built up, the unique environment in the House of Commons means that any moves between MPs’ offices, as part of natural career progression, wipes our employment history clean.
“This means we lose our sickness, redundancy and maternity/paternity rights with every move. This stops some people applying to get experience with another MP or applying for promotion.
“We are also in the same position if our MP retires, loses his/her position, or we leave because of ‘difficulties’ within the office that are outside of our control.”
The letter welcomes the recommendation that the House of Commons should have an arrangement akin to an HR department to tackle the alleged bullying and harassment, but notes that the next Speaker – who will replace John Bercow – should consider tackling the “unfair system” that penalises staff who move from one MP’s office to another.
“Some of us have been affected by the loss of these rights. For example, a researcher who achieved a promotion earlier this year was diagnosed with cancer four weeks after starting work for her new MP and, despite having worked continuously for more than three years for MPs, was not entitled to full sick pay, exacerbating an already distressing experience,” the letter adds.
Earlier this year, an independent inquiry into allegations of bullying and harassment in the House of Commons recommended a shift away from the idea that MPs are “650 small businesses” with “near complete freedom to operate in relation to their staff”. It found a centralised body, similar to an HR department, should be introduced to monitor employment practices and staff welfare.