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MoD on ‘inappropriate behaviours’

by Mark Rowe

New routes to anonymously report inappropriate behaviour are promised by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to tackle ‘inappropriate behaviours’ in the armed forces. That includes a new hotline, a phone-based app and website forms.

This follows the publication of a review into inappropriate behaviour in the armed forces, by Air Marshal Michael Wigston. The report admitted ‘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’.

By ‘inappropriate behaviours’ the review meant bullying, harassment including sexual harassment, and discrimination. It called for 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’. A ‘Defence Authority’ will 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. Such an authority models the Canadian Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force and United States military.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt said: “Whether it is crude comments, discriminatory treatment, or even offences of a sexual nature, inappropriate behaviour has no place in society, let alone in our armed forces. This report sends a clear message and I am committed to ensuring its recommendations are delivered in full. In addition to the report, I want to ensure non-commissioned officers are able to address poor behaviour when they see it. They are the moral compass of the Armed Forces.”

The Chief of Defence Staff and Permanent Secretary have written to all senior commanders to update them on the review and stress the importance of the findings, particularly the importance of leadership in setting the conditions for good culture behaviour across defence. The respective heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force are also writing to all staff on the outcome of the review.

Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston, author of the report and incoming Chief of the Air Staff said: “The vast majority of people in the UK Armed Forces serve with courage, determination and professionalism; they are a great credit to our nation. In stark contrast, my report found an unacceptable and persistent level of inappropriate behaviour in the UK Armed Forces. This behaviour harms people, damages our reputation and almost certainly impacts our ability to attract and retain the talent we need.

“By implementing the report’s recommendations, I am confident we can address the challenge of inappropriate behaviour in our Armed Forces. It requires a determined effort to change the culture, driven persistently from the top and at every level of leadership below that. Everyone has a part to play, and it’s not optional.”

The report found that the services receive far fewer complaints than the private sector which reports an average number of complaints of inappropriate behaviour equating approximately to 1pc of the workforce per year of which 25 to 40pc is usually reported anonymously. It makes 36 recommendations on what the armed forces should do to stop instances of inappropriate behaviours occurring, and what to should do better when inappropriate behaviours have occurred. It concludes: “Ultimately, the challenge of inappropriate behaviour will 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.”

For the report in full visit

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