Army complaints process letting down female and BAME staff

MPs have said that a “disproportionate” number of female and ethnic minority personnel in the armed forces file internal complaints.

A Commons Defence Committee report said the number of complaints, which often allege discrimination, bullying and harassment, was a “serious concern”.

The report published on Wednesday said there was “no clear data” to suggest why, for the third consecutive year, female and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in the Army, the RAF and the Navy were “overrepresented” in the armed forces complaints system.

In 43% of cases, concerns raised by women related to bullying, harassment and discrimination – compared with 20% of complaints by men.

People from BAME backgrounds make up 7% of the workforce but made 13% of complaints, it added.

For these people 39% of complaints concerned bullying, harassment and discrimination, compared with 24% for white members of staff.

Commenting on the findings, Sinead Cartwright, Director at Hilary Meredith Solicitors said:

“This report reflects what we hear from our female and BAME clients.

“So many women in the army have told us how they have suffered sexual harassment which has been brushed off as ‘normal’ behaviour.

“All too often, racist comments directed at BAME service men and women are also passed off as ‘banter’ and complaints are not taken seriously enough. The situation is totally unacceptable and cannot be allowed to continue.”

The Ministry of Defence said it would “overhaul” the complaints process.