Tuesday, July 16, 2019

UK MOD Report on Inappropriate Behaviours

The UK Ministry of Defence has issued a Report of Inappropriate Behaviours. It is available here. The Executive Summary states:

On 10 April 2019 in response to repeated instances of inappropriate and allegedly unlawful behaviour by serving members of the UK Armed Forces, the Secretary of State for Defence commissioned an urgent report into inappropriate behaviours in the Armed Forces. The report, due in mid-May 2019, was expected to: understand the current evidence regarding inappropriate behaviour across the Services; make recommendations on what can be done to ensure and reassure the Armed Forces are an inclusive and modern employer; and identify areas for further action, including potential improvements to controls, processes or policy.

There are nearly 250,000 people in Defence, military and civil service, and the overwhelming majority serve with great pride collectively protecting the UK 24/7. The UK Armed Forces are a formidable fighting force and the commitment of all military and the civilians that support them is rightly celebrated. In bleak contrast, however, inappropriate behaviour persists which harms people, the teams they serve in and, ultimately, operational output. There is no single comprehensive picture of inappropriate behaviours in Defence, however the data that does exist points to an unacceptable level of inappropriate behaviour and a sub-optimal system for dealing with it when it does occur. Such behaviour – and its consequences for the people affected by it – damages the UK Armed Forces’ hard-won reputation for courage, determination and professionalism, and almost certainly has an impact on attracting, recruiting and retaining the talent that our Armed Forces and Civil Service need. Culture and performance is not a trade-off; tackling inappropriate behaviour is performance-enhancing for Defence, as well as the right thing to do.

Tackling inappropriate behaviours is recognised at the highest levels in Defence, and this report confirmed that policies, governance and training programmes to address the problem are energised across the Naval Service, Army, Royal Air Force and Civil Service. There are further opportunities to share good practice and learn from others – internally as well as our international allies and other external organisations – and we make a number of observations and recommendations in that regard. Ultimately, however, it is about the determination of leaders to change the culture; everything else hangs off that:
We must do more to stop instances of inappropriate behaviour occurring. This is principally a chain of command issue for the Naval Service, Army and Royal Air Force, and for Civil Service line management. It is about leadership at every level in the organisation, setting the culture and standards, and ensuring people meet those standards consistently. It is also about effective and resourced training, and a focused system of governance which we recommend should include centralised assurance and the compilation of a single set of data and statistics relating to inappropriate behaviour. 
We have to do better when instances of inappropriate behaviour have occurred or are alleged to have occurred. Our own surveys and external stakeholders highlight repeatedly the shortcomings of the current system for raising complaints about inappropriate behaviour, with complainants citing a fear of retribution or lack of faith that anything would be done. The Service Complaints Ombudsman judges our Service Complaints system is neither efficient, effective or fair. Furthermore, the disproportionate overrepresentation of women and ethnic minorities – and a lack of data on other minority groups – in the Service Complaints system is of widespread concern. There is a pressing need to reform the Service Complaints system including: anonymous reporting of inappropriate behaviours; a helpline; a parallel channel for raising Service Complaints outwith the chain of command; and a dedicated central Service Complaints team equipped to deal with the most complex allegations of bullying, harassment including sexual harassment, and discrimination. 
We should establish a Defence Authority working to the Chief of Defence People as Senior Responsible Owner on behalf of the Chief of the Defence Staff and Permanent Secretary. The Authority would inter alia be responsible for: pan-Defence policy and governance; holding all management information on inappropriate behaviours; conducting assurance activity across the Armed Forces; sharing leading practice across Defence; and housing the central Service Complaints team, operating in support of and with respect to the single Services’ chain of command. 
Evidence reflected in this report indicates a significant number of our people have experienced bullying, discrimination and harassment, including sexual, but have not felt able or been able to come forward to report it; we recommend consideration of a call for evidence from people affected, coincident with the establishment of the Defence Authority.
This report makes 36 recommendations. Some are about improving the complaints system and processes, and the majority are about preventing instances of inappropriate behaviour occurring in the first place. Encouraging and enabling more complaints – and dealing with them better – should lead to greater trust in the organisation and help signal the leadership’s determination to stamp out inappropriate behaviour. Ultimately, however, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour can only be addressed through a determined effort across the whole force to change the culture, driven persistently from the top and at every level of leadership and line management below that. It requires authentic leadership; relentless engagement; and consistent communication, with everybody playing their part.

The Secretary of State demanded an urgent report which, by its very nature, did not permit the time to conduct deep evidence gathering or expert analysis of the situation. It is acknowledged and accepted that in the future more detailed work and analysis recommended in this report may reinforce or reveal contrasting interpretations of the evidence. The report does, however, offer clear signposting of where further work is now required. Some recommendations should have an immediate impact but, to change embedded cultures and behaviours, a much longer view is necessary; experience among allied armed forces is of a five- to ten-year programme of concerted activity to make a measurable difference and we should be prepared for the same.

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