13 Jul 2018, 14.01

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission this week has agreed two policy documents to support equality in the workplace: on Maternity Leave and on Dignity and Respect.

The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission recognises that, to encourage greater participation of women in the political process, supports are required for Members who become parents. It has approved a Draft Maternity Leave Policy for Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas to be published in the autumn, pending further consultation with political parties and groups. The purpose of this policy is to provide support to Members to enable them to balance their role as new parents with their role as public representatives.

The Commission also has formally agreed a Dignity and Respect policy framework providing guidance to employers in Leinster House on ensuring best practice in preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace and managing complaints. The decision by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission advances a detailed process of consultation with key stakeholders in Leinster House, including unions and political parties, on its new document: The Houses of the Oireachtas Dignity and Respect Statement of Principles and Policy.

The 11-member Commission under its Chair, Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD, in 2017 initiated the development of a modernised HR policy intended to cover all employers and employees active within Leinster House. The Commission took this week’s decision following three months of discussions with internal stakeholders, including employee groups, TDs and Senators, as well as several interested external groups, including ICTU, to ensure the broadest possible support for these Principles and Policy documents.

The Commission welcomed the support and progress achieved and noted that arrangements were under way to finalise each stakeholder’s formal acceptance and implementation plan.

The Commission expressed hope that all employers who are parties to the new Principles and Policy would take whatever steps are necessary to align their own internal HR policies and procedures to comply with the new Dignity and Respect framework. It agreed that the Oireachtas Service will organise a series of training seminars for those groups implementing new policies and procedures as part of this initiative. This will include the provision of support where necessary from an external mediation service or HR adviser.

Following further consultations with stakeholders, the Commission expects to publish the Principles and Policy documents in the autumn. This time frame allows the support services agreed by the Commission to be put in place before the documents are finalised and published.

“The Commission’s Draft Maternity Leave Policy provides a practical step towards supporting the increased participation of women in the Houses of the Oireachtas and I welcome the initiative,” Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD said in a statement.

“I also am delighted to see that the Houses of the Oireachtas Dignity and Respect Statement of Principles and Policy has won broad consensus from the political parties, groups and staff representatives and will form a common standard throughout the Parliament to promote the maintenance of a respectful and positive workplace,” he said.

“These principles apply to everyone working in the parliamentary community: Members of the Houses, political staff, interns, political correspondents, and the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas Service. It should be noted that, in most cases, these principles formally endorsed by the Commission build on the best practice procedures which many of the groups working in the Oireachtas already have in place.”

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