MOD Signs Agreement with EOC

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The Mission

In the Armed Forces, lives may depend on people working well together. Sexual harassment has no place in the Armed Forces and they have well established policies for tackling it. All military or civilian personnel, regardless of rank, grade or status, have a right to protection from sexual harassment and a responsibility to ensure that the working environment is free from sexual harassment and that the dignity of others is respected.

The Armed Forces’ aim is to ‘create a culture that encourages and enables people throughout society to join us, and remain with us, to make their distinctive contributions and achieve their full potential, and that does not tolerate any form of intimidation, humiliation, harassment, bullying or abuse and will ensure each individual is treated fairly, with dignity and respect. Our mission is to break down all barriers of discrimination, prejudice, fear or misunderstanding, which can damage operational effectiveness.

The Problem

Notwithstanding the efforts the Armed Forces have made over recent years to deal effectively with sexual harassment, their continuous attitude surveys show that in all three Services there remains a perception that sexual harassment and discrimination are widespread, and too many individuals say they have suffered it personally. This is also borne out by some of the findings of the recent House of Commons Defence Committee Report into Duty of Care and the Adult Learning Inspectorate Report on Safer Training. There is also a worrying discrepancy between the proportion of people who say they have experienced sexual harassment and the actual number of formal complaints made. Furthermore, many complaints are taking too long to resolve.

In June 2004, the Equal Opportunities Commission (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Commission’) wrote to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expressing its concern about the frequency and persistence of sexual harassment against women serving in the Armed Forces and requesting detailed information on this issue. On the basis of the information provided and, after receiving both written and oral representations from the MoD and the Armed Forces, the Commission concluded that the Armed Forces have not taken sufficient steps to meet their legal responsibilities under the Act to prevent and deal effectively with sexual harassment of service women. The Armed Forces agree that, despite comprehensive equality and diversity training directives and up to date policies and processes there are still too many instances of sexual harassment in the Armed Forces, and that more needs to be done to change the culture on the ground. Using its powers as set out in the Sex Discrimination Act, the Commission has embarked upon but immediately suspended a formal investigation. The suspension of the investigation is conditional on the Armed Forces’ fulfilment of an Agreement and Action Plan to prevent and deal effectively with sexual harassment.

The Action Plan

This Agreement between the Commission and the MoD is based on an Action Plan (Annex A) which addresses their mutual concerns about sexual harassment in the Armed Forces.

The aim of the Action Plan is to ensure the MoD, with the support and assistance of the Commission, takes practical and effective steps within a reasonable time to prevent and deal effectively with sexual harassment against women in the Armed Forces. This means:

• creating a working environment in which sexual harassment is unacceptable;

• ensuring that Service personnel who experience sexual harassment feel able to complain and have confidence in the complaints process;

• ensuring that the outcome of any service redress and administrative procedures relating to sexual harassment effectively remedies the sexual harassment and protects the victim from future sexual harassment or victimisation;

• providing effective sanctions to deter and discourage sexual harassment.
The Agreement will last for a three-year period and will fall into three phases: Phase I will run from the date of the Agreement until January 2006 and is primarily a diagnostic and data gathering phase; Phase II, is a period for the MoD to review the information collected to date and to propose to the Commission for their agreement a programme of further work, including outcomes and targets to be achieved; and Phase III, is an implementation and monitoring phase, from April 2006 for a period of two years. The completion dates detailed in the Plan are target dates. They will be kept under review as work on the various measures progresses and may be amended by the mutual agreement of the Parties to the Agreement.
The suspension of a formal investigation by the Commission, under the terms of the Sex Discrimination Act, is conditional on the Armed Forces’ fulfilment of the Agreement and Action Plan.

The Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff will be responsible for compliance with this Agreement by the MoD and the Armed Forces.

Implementation of the measures included in this Agreement will be under the direction of the Service Personnel Executive Group (SPEG) chaired by the Director-General Service Personnel Policy (DG SPPol).

The MoD and Armed Forces and the Commission are committed to working together to achieve the full implementation of this agreement, the action plan and the objectives for preventing and dealing with sexual harassment.

The Parties to the Agreement

The Equal Opportunities Commission (‘the Commission’) is the statutory body established by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 with statutory duties to work towards the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity between women and men. The Commission has the ability under section 56 of the Sex Discrimination Act to conduct a formal investigation if it believes that unlawful acts under the Sex Discrimination Act may have taken place.

The Defence Council exercises on behalf of the Crown its powers of command and administration over the Armed Forces; under the Defence Council, the Admiralty, Army and Air Force Boards are charged with the administration of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force respectively. It is chaired by the Secretary of State for Defence, who is one of Her Majesty’s Principal Secretaries of State and who is charged with general responsibility for defence, and has charge of the MoD.

The Agreement

It is agreed that:

1. The Commission will suspend a formal investigation into sexual harassment of Servicewomen within the Armed Forces unless it considers at any time that the MoD and the Armed Forces have materially failed to achieve the objectives set out in this Agreement, or materially failed to take any action set out in Annex A, or any future action agreed under Phase II of Annex A.

2. The Commission will use its best endeavours to provide the MoD and the Armed Forces with such advice as may be reasonably requested by them to enable them to enable them to achieve their obligations under this Agreement.

3. In addition to submitting any information and data required under this Agreement, the MoD and the Armed Forces will use their best endeavours to provide such information and documentation as may reasonably be requested by the Commission for the purposes of monitoring and reviewing their compliance with this Agreement.

4. The Agreement will fall into three phases: the first, a diagnostic and data gathering phase, from the date of the agreement until 31 Jan 06, covering the measures in Annex 1, Phase I; Phase II, a period from 1 February 2006 to 31 March 2006, for the MoD to review the information collected to date and to propose to the Commission for their agreement a programme of further work, including outcomes and targets to be achieved; and, Phase III an implementation and monitoring phase, from 1 April 2006 until June 2008, when the Commission will determine whether the Armed Forces have complied fully with the Agreement, including achieving the agreed outcomes and targets.

5. The MoD and Armed Forces will draw up Project Plans for taking forward the work against each measure detailed in Annex A, Phase I or any measure agreed in accordance with Phase II.

a. Prior to commencement of work on any measure, the MoD and Armed Forces shall submit the Project Plan for agreement by the Commission. The Project Plans will form appendices to the Action Plan.

b. If the Commission does not approve the Project Plan within 14 days of its submission, the parties will make all reasonable efforts to agree an amended project plan within a further 14 days. If the parties cannot reach agreement within that period, the Commission will provide the MoD and the Armed Forces with a Project Plan.

6. The MoD and the Armed Forces will implement the measures detailed in Annex A, Phase I or agreed in accordance with Phase II and shall use their best endeavours to implement them by the deadlines set out in the agreement, and in accordance with the project plans produced in accordance with Clause 5. The MoD and Armed Forces will provide a progress report to the Commission quarterly or as otherwise agreed.

7. In June 2008, the Commission will conduct a final review of the MoD and the Armed Forces’ performance to determine whether they have successfully performed as required under the Agreement including achieving the agreed outcomes.

8. The MoD and the Commission will make a joint, public announcement about this agreement. In this, the MoD will acknowledge that sexual harassment exists within the Armed Forces; that they are determined to take steps to prevent and deal with such harassment; and, that they are committed to working with the Commission to achieve the full implementation of this Agreement.


For the Ministry of Defence

Rt.Hon.John Reid MP, Secretary of State for Defence

General Sir Michael Walker, Chief of the Defence Staff

I fully agree that discrimination of any sort has absolutely no place within the Armed Forces. I think we can all agree that is a given. Yet the EOC, who have the
perception (based upon hearsay and not formal complaints) that there is a sexual harrassment problem within the Armed Forces, have singled us out for investigation if they deem we are in 'material breach' of this agreement (where have I heard that before). It sounds to me that the EOC has stereotyped the vast majority of the male members of the Armed Forces as 'harrassers'. Thanks EOC, how equal is that?

Perhaps a poll will prove me wrong.


Book Reviewer
Totally agree with your statement.

If asked by the EOC if I believed there is a sexual, racial or bullying problem in the Army and if I thought that their statement was correct I catergorically say "No".

As with any organisation, we have isolated cases from bad apples and I do not believe that ANY organisation be it public or private is any different.

To catergorise soldier as all being a bunch of bigotted, racist ignorants (which by the joy of brevity this report basically says) well isn't that against the spirit of their own mission statement?
I'm gonna get Slated for this...........But F*ck it!!

Some of the newer Service women misinterpret harmless "Banter" as Sexual Harassment or just plain Harrassment??

For example, your on exercise, and your Det commander cracks a joke which is derogatary to women. The female member of the Det takes offence, and your up in front of the SSM etc!! If a female service woman cracked a joke about a wouldn't take offence, you would just tell her to get the brews on!!!


Book Reviewer
You are not alone but this is indictive of the me culture that exists at this time. Personal responsibility does not exist any more nor does standing up for yourself.

Youth of today: Get a fecking spine, dry your eyes and take some responsibility for yourself.
Tiz Grandad 'ere! In my day in the main the only women you saw were rear echelon and not many of those. If a poof reared his head in a unit and caused problems then the problem was sorted with a swift kicking or posting. No problems! All this PC crap is ruining UK and the military I was proud to serve. Glad I'm not in now. Rant over.

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