How the ICGS works
Whether you feel you have experienced, witnessed or are aware of bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct, or you have any questions, the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS) are here to help.
Who carries out independent investigations?
When you make a complaint to the helpline it will be assessed by an external independent investigator. If, after an initial assessment, the complaint meets the criteria for investigation under the scheme it will move forward to a full investigation which will be carried out by an external independent investigator.
Complaints against staff of either House, PDS, MPs, or MPs’ staff are investigated by external independent investigators. Complaints against members of the House of Lords, or Lords members’ staff, are investigated by the independent House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, who may use external independent investigators to assist the investigation. See Lords Commissioner process.
Who has a decision-making role?
Respondent type Role
Decision Maker / Employer
|Commons, Lords Staff and Parliamentary Digital Services staff||Your line management chain.||Takes any management or disciplinary action that is warranted by the case. They will be supported by HR.|
|Members of Parliament||Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards||Oversight of the investigation; application of lower level sanctions; Independent Expert Panel determines higher level sanctions and appeals against the Commissioner’s decisions|
|Members’ staff||Member of Parliament||Takes any management or disciplinary action that is warranted by the case|
|Members of the Lords||Lords Commissioner for Standards||Oversight and management of all complaints, investigations and recommending sanctions|
|Lords members’ staff||Lords Commissioner for Standards||Oversight and management of all complaints, investigations and recommending sanctions|
|Other members of the parliamentary community||Relevant employer||Takes any management or disciplinary action that is warranted by the case|
How is an investigator selected?
If, following your contact with the helpline you decide to progress a complaint to a formal investigation, an investigator will be appointed by the ICGS team. Investigators are appointed based on their availability and relevant specialist experience, which might include dealing with sexual misconduct, diversity issues or complex cases where there are a significant number of people involved.
For investigations led by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards, availability and relevant experience will also help to determine which investigators are selected for each case.
What happens during an investigation?
Full details of the process of an investigation can be found in our guidance section. Guidance is provided for both those making a complaint (the Complainant) and those who have had a complaint made against the ( the respondent).
What is an ISMA?
An ISMA is trained as an Independent Sexual Violence Adviser, with knowledge of processes and the support available to you both within the ICGS and the criminal justice system. ISMAs also provide information on other services that clients may require, for example in relation to health and social care. They can accompany and support you through all elements of your enquiry or complaint, so that you remain empowered to decide how you would like to manage your situation.
Complaints are treated confidentially and will normally only be discussed with those who are involved in resolving them, including the independent helpline, the external investigators, the ICGS team and the decision-making body. If, however, there is an assessment of risk of harm, third parties may need to be informed, for example the Police or health services.
For further information about confidentiality please visit our confidentiality page.
Inclusion is important to us.
The ICGS is committed to equal opportunities. We will take every possible step to ensure that no person receives less favourable treatment or will be disadvantaged on the grounds of their age, disability (including mental health), gender identity, gender expression, trans status, marriage or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. We will also not discriminate on the grounds of trade union membership or political activities, socio-economic status, responsibility for dependents, part-time status or fixed-term contract status or any other reason which cannot be shown to be justified.
Adjustments that we can make include, but are not limited to:
- translation services
- next generation text relay
- video calling and live captioning
- flexible contact hours (with prior arrangement)
If you have any access needs, please let us know by contacting your Investigation Liaison Lead and we will endeavour to adjust our service to respond to your needs.
Parliamentary Privilege and the ICGS:
ICGS and Proceedings in the House of Commons/Commons Committees
1. There is a distinction between the Behaviour Code, which applies at all times to all members of the parliamentary community, and the ICGS, which does not apply to formal proceedings of the House of Commons.
2. The ICGS does not cover anything said (whether orally or in writing) by a Member that forms part of proceedings in the House or its committees. This includes things said in speeches or interventions in the Chamber and general committees and, in select committees, questions put to witnesses and other things said in the course of formal meetings, whether in private or in public. The reason for this exclusion is that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PCS)—who has oversight of investigations against MPs conducted under the ICGS—has no remit to look into the behaviour of MPs during proceedings in the House or in committee, save for a very limited role relating to declaration of interests under the Code of Conduct.
3. The ICGS does not apply to formal parliamentary proceedings in the Commons and its Committees. Many matters can take place in the House or a Committee which are not formal proceedings and would not be so exempt. Examples of actions by a Member in the House of Commons chamber or in a committee room while the House or Committee is sitting (whether in public or private) that would fall within the remit of the ICGS and PCS include:
o bullying or harassment of another person via whispering or passing notes; or
o sexual misconduct in the form of unwanted touching of another Member, a clerk or other employee of the House, a witness or a visitor.
Actions such as these would be not be regarded as part of proceedings in Parliament and would therefore be eligible for investigation under the ICGS.
4. Freedom of speech in Parliament is a fundamental constitutional principle, but it is possible to challenge its abuse. If a Member used inappropriate words during proceedings, the following people could take action:
o In the Chamber, the Speaker/Deputy in the Chair could take action, either during the proceedings if inappropriate language is used, or by speaking to the Member;
o In Committees, the Chair could intervene (or another member of the Committee, if the Chair was the person behaving inappropriately) either during or after the proceedings. A member of staff could also intervene in a private meeting and/or speak to the Member afterwards about their behaviour. If appropriate, this could be supported by the ‘restrictions of service’ guidance for managers, endorsed by the House of Commons and House of Lords Commission, which allows the team to consider how they might put in place measures to protect staff from the Member’s behaviour, by restricting services;
o If a witness was subject to inappropriate behaviour during a Committee oral evidence session, the witness could write to the Chair of the Liaison Committee.
ICGS and Proceedings in the House of Lords/Lords Committees
5. The Lords Code of Conduct states that a Member can be investigated for bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct that took place in the course of a proceeding. During any such investigation, the Commissioners for Standards needs to recognise freedom of speech as a primary consideration. The onus is therefore placed on the Commissioner (and the Conduct Committee on appeal) to strike the right balance between people’s safety and the right to freedom of speech. The relevant sections of the Lords Code of Conduct are as follows:
18. Members are required to treat those with whom they come into contact in the course of their parliamentary duties and activities (including parliamentary proceedings) with respect and courtesy. Behaviour that amounts to bullying, harassment or sexual misconduct is a breach of this Code.
29. In investigating and adjudicating allegations of non-compliance with this Code, the Commissioner and the Conduct Committee shall:
• (a) recognise as a primary consideration the constitutional principle of freedom of speech in parliamentary proceedings, including but not limited to the need for members to be able to express their views fully and frankly in parliamentary proceedings;
• (b) act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fairness.