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Monday 27 February 2023

FDA calls for investigation into ministerial bullying

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The FDA has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to conduct an investigation into ministerial bullying in the civil service and the absence of an effective procedure to deal with it. 

Our report on ministerial bullying, submitted as evidence to the HSE, uses research from our survey of over 650 senior civil servants. This survey found:

  • 17.3% of respondents said they had witnessed unacceptable workplace behaviour by a minister in the past year. These members were spread across over 20 different departments. 
  • 69.3% of respondents said that if they had to raise a concern about unacceptable behaviour at work by a minister they did not have confidence it would be dealt with fairly. 
  • Out of the respondents who said that they had witnessed unacceptable behaviour by a minister in the past year, 83.7% said they did not have confidence that it would be dealt with fairly. Those who are most likely to need to use the process are least likely to have confidence in the system.

General Secretary of the FDA, Dave Penman stated the report demonstrates “bullying and harassment by ministers is going unchecked across Whitehall” and “can no longer be dismissed as isolated incidents”. 

Speaking live on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Penman highlighted that the current process for dealing with ministerial misconduct, which relies on the ‘good chap principle’, “has failed”. Civil servants feel “there is no point raising a complaint, because no one will address it”, he continued. The current system “relies on a Prime Minister doing the right thing, and if a Prime Minister won’t do the right thing – then the whole system falls apart”.  

Penman told Kuenssberg that “because of the humiliating, demeaning behaviour that people are reporting, they are not actually giving ministers the advice that they need”. A third of respondents to our survey said they did not feel confident about giving frank advice to ministers – this rose to half of respondents among those who had witnessed unacceptable behaviour. 

“Employers have a legal obligation to keep their employees safe from harm”, argues Penman. From our report it is clear that “when it comes to bullying and harassment by ministers, the civil service is failing to do so”. The General Secretary concludes that:

“Only the Prime Minister has the power to address these issues, his refusal has meant we have no choice now but to ask the Health and Safety Executive to intervene.” 


Penman's words were widely reported on including The Guardian, BBC News, The Times, Sky News, The Herald, The Belfast Telegraph, MailOnline, The Spectator, The Evening Standard, Politics Home, Nation.Cymru and many more. 

The General Secretary's appearance on Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg was syndicated across BBC Radio (national and local) and was featured in news segments on a wide range of music radio including Radio X. 

8th Feb 2024
FDA Cymru|Wales has called on the Senedd to “implement a fully independent process for dealing with complaints of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment” made against MSs.
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