Socialist Party Procedure for Reporting Sexual Harassment

The reporting of sexual harassment can be difficult, so the Socialist Party aims to make the process as clear and straightforward as possible.

The term “authoritative member” is used throughout this document. Members are considered authoritative by virtue of;

  • Their personal or professional experience and expertise,
  • Their standing within the organisation as defined by the length of their membership, level of activity and holding, either contemporaneously or historically, elected positions with the party or trade union movement.

Members will not be considered “authoritative” in circumstances where any conflict of interest exists.

Responsibilities of members:

All members have a responsibility to behave in a way that does not constitute sexual harassment. We ask that any member who becomes aware of behaviour they think may amount to sexual harassment reports this. We consider this to be a duty of members as part of a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can be reported by the individual who experiences it or another person who becomes aware of such behaviour.

Reports can be made to:

  • any party branch secretary;
  • any member of the National Committee, National Executive Committee or Regional Executive Committee;
  • any person who works full time for the party;
  • or one of the Safeguarding Officers or any alternate Safeguarding Officer

When receiving reports of sexual harassment any of the above mentioned authoritative members they must make it clear at the start that it will likely be necessary for them to share the information with one of the Safeguarding Officers.

The Safeguarding Officers will be elected by the National Conference from a slate of candidates approved by the National Committee to ensure those elected are authoritative members and be balanced in terms of gender and age. There may also be a panel of alternate Safeguarding Officers elected by Conference. The alternate Safeguarding Officers may be included in the work of the Safeguarding Officers and shall be eligible to participate in an Investigation team.

Reports or complaints regarding sexual harassment will be passed on to a Safeguarding Officer. Each Safeguarding Officer is required to share any reports or complaints they receive with the other officers to ensure accountability and best practice. Where a complaint is made against a Safeguarding Officer this individual will be excluded from all processes.

It is the responsibility of all members to engage in safeguarding investigations if asked to do so by SGOs who are directly elected by conference for this role. Members are also asked to not engage in discussions about ongoing safeguarding investigations if they become aware of them in the interests of confidentiality and to ensure SGOs can complete investigations unhindered. The Party recognises that these issues can be complex and difficult. It is understandable if individuals who engage with this process at any level including as a potential witness may require emotional or other support. SGOs can be contacted for such support at any point and can offer resources, advice and information as required.

The Socialist Party’s responsibilities:

The party has a responsibility to look into incidents it has reason to think could constitute sexual harassment/assault.

If an investigation is required, this will be conducted by the Safeguarding Officers. Should this not be possible the Safeguarding Officers in conjunction with the NEC shall appoint additional members to join an Investigation Team. These additional appointments to the Investigation Panel shall be made up from among alternate Safeguarding Officers elected by the National Conference. Should the investigation Panel not be able to be completed using alternate Safeguarding Officers it shall be completed by coopting any member who is deemed appropriate by the Safeguarding Officers and NEC. 

If a complaint being investigated involves the behaviour of a member of the NEC, there cannot be a majority of NEC members on the Investigation Team and it may be appropriate that the Investigation Team involve at least one authoritative member from another section within our international organisation: International Socialist Alternative.

Any work or investigation, either formal or informal, must be conducted in a professional way, including making a record of the process. Recorded minutes of all meetings in relation to a formal investigation must be kept and agreed by involved parties.  All processes should be conducted as swiftly as possible.

Possible actions and outcomes:

1) informal approach and resolution

Depending on the situation, an informal approach may be most appropriate. This could involve raising the issue with the respondent or initiating a discussion among the people involved to try to resolve and overcome the issues. An informal approach could be adopted by a complainant or bystander or initiated after discussion with a Safeguarding Officer. Where an informal approach has been adopted, a formal process can be initiated later if the situation has not been resolved to the satisfaction of all involved.

2) formal investigation

If an investigation is required, an Investigation Team will be established. This will be comprised of the Safeguarding Officers or those appointed in addition as discussed above. The NEC in conjunction with the Safeguarding Officers reserves the right to at any point throughout an investigation take measures up to and including the suspension of individuals from membership pending an investigation, if deemed necessary in the interest of safety of the individual; complainant(s); members; the conduct of the investigation or the party as a whole. SGOs may request such measures at any stage after receiving a complaint.

Any allegations will be clearly and fully presented and all the people involved, including any witnesses will be interviewed separately. Then the Investigating Team will deliberate on the information and judge if they believe the behaviour amounts to sexual harassment. Those investigating shall make recommendations regarding courses of action which could range from informal resolution options to disciplinary measures including expulsion from the Party. The Investigation Team will seek to reach a consensus or, failing this, a majority decision. This will then be reported to the NEC who will decide on the findings or recommendations and be responsible for taking any action.

The NEC should report its decisions to the National Committee but in some instances, it will be appropriate to keep any procedures on a need to know basis out of respect for the privacy of individuals involved.

Concluding reports by SGOs and significant proposals linked to safeguarding matters should be provided to comrades at least 7 days prior to decisions being made in order to allow for consideration and informed decision-making. This will generally relate to NEC and NC decisions.

3) right to appeal

Respondents or complainants may request an appeal against the findings or the sanctions flowing from an investigation. Unlike other investigations/disciplinary situation there cannot be an automatic guarantee of a right of appeal to the party conference against the finding or sanctions in cases of sexual harassment, particularly out of respect for the welfare of victims. If the NEC refuses a right to appeal, this must be reported to the next meeting of the National Committee and approved.

4) reporting of complaints to authorities

If a complainant wants to report abuse to the police, the Party will support that decision. If the party receives a complaint of a serious nature; or is concerned that an allegation may form part of an ongoing pattern of behaviour that could put other Party members or members of the public at risk; we reserve the right to report such matters to the appropriate authorities. Where individuals are reported to the appropriate authorities they will be informed of this unless doing so risks the welfare of others.

Policy as amended by NC decision 12/12/2020

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