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‘Shocking’ rise in MoD payouts for bullying, harassment and discrimination

Labour said new figures on MoD compensation settlements are shocking (Tim Ireland/PA)
Labour said new figures on MoD compensation settlements are shocking (Tim Ireland/PA)

Average settlements paid out by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) over bullying, harassment and discrimination claims have doubled since 2019, according to new figures.

Labour called the data “shocking” and urged ministers to “root out” unacceptable behaviour in the department and the armed forces.

The figures, obtained by shadow defence minister Maria Eagle, come weeks after it emerged that 60 senior women at the MoD had complained of a “hostile” and “toxic” environment amid allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Released following written parliamentary questions, the figures show that the average compensation settlement made by the MoD following bullying, harassment or discrimination claims reached £235,564 in 2022/23.

Only a few years earlier, in 2020/21, the figure was £100,527.

In the same period, the number of settlements grew from fewer than five to 12.

Ms Eagle said: “The Conservatives are continuing to fail to get grips with issues in defence. These revelations are shocking and expose a deeply concerning trend within the MoD.

“That both the number of settlement payments and the average payout has more than doubled in just two years lays bare the MoD’s problems with bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“Ministers must lead from the top to root out unacceptable behaviour in the MoD and the armed forces. Labour in government will legislate to establish an Armed Forces Commissioner to act as a strong independent voice to improve the lives of serving personnel and their families.”

The figures come amid serious concerns about the culture within the MoD and wider armed forces.

A report earlier this month found a “hostile, degrading and humiliating” environment within the Red Arrows display team and said women were plied with alcohol, treated like property and harassed for sex.

The Guardian reported in November that senior civil servants had also written to the Ministry of Defence’s permanent secretary detailing claims that the women have been “propositioned”, “groped” and “touched repeatedly” by men working in the department.

It reported that the letter saw officials claim their “day-to-day professional lives are made difficult thanks to behaviours that would be considered toxic and inappropriate in public life, but that are tolerated at the MoD”.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: “We do not tolerate abuse, bullying or discrimination of any kind, which is why we have introduced many changes to improve the experience for everyone across defence, including improvements to reporting mechanisms, diversity and inclusion training, and increased access to support.

“We actively encourage any personnel who believe they have experienced or witnessed unacceptable behaviour to report it.

“All allegations of unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously and are thoroughly investigated. If proven, swift action will be taken.”