Bank of England faces probe after bullying and harassment rise under Mark Carney

Bank of England officials are to be grilled by MPs after new figures showed a 'concerning' spike in bullying and harassment cases during Mark Carney's term as Governor.

Bank of England officials are to be grilled by MPs after new figures showed a "concerning" spike in bullying and harassment cases during Mark Carney's term as Governor. Picture: PA Wire

The influential Treasury Select Committee is set to probe the Bank as figures obtained by the Press Association show at least 23 bullying and harassment cases were formally investigated by the institution between July 2013 - when Mr Carney took the reins - and June 2018.

The data, gathered via Freedom of Information requests, accounted for incidents both in and out of the workplace, such as business trips, events and work-related social functions.

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But the total figure may be as high as 39, based on the upper limit of two periods during Mr Carney’s term, for which the Bank only said the number of cases was “less than 10”.

It said 21 of the cases were investigated between January 2014 and May 2018.

Even the most conservative figure means the number of internal harassment investigations surpasses those logged during the final years under former governor Mervyn King, whose tenure ran from June 2003 to June 2013.

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Fewer than 10 cases were investigated between June 2009 and June 2013, the only period for which the Bank said centralised records were available.

The figures are likely to cause particular embarrassment as they come on World Mental Health Day, which promotes wellness in the workplace.

The Treasury Committee has called the trend “concerning” and is now planning to grill Bank officials over the increase.

Chairwoman Nicky Morgan said: “An increase in bullying and harassment cases at the Bank of England is concerning.

“The Treasury Committee will no doubt look to get to the bottom of this when we next take evidence from the Court of the Bank of England.”

The Press Association also requested a gendered breakdown of the complainants and defendants from the Bank, but this was not provided, despite an appeal arguing that the data was in the public interest given concerns over a lack of diversity among the Bank’s senior ranks.

The Bank said it could not provide the breakdown of the genders or the number of staff involved as there were fewer than 10 people involved in each case.

It said the information would therefore amount to “personal information” and would breach data protection rules.

It also claimed that individuals could “potentially be identified if these low numbers were disclosed”.

Details regarding the outcome of the cases were withheld on the same grounds, though the Bank said upheld cases could have resulted in a verbal or written warning, a note on the employee’s record, or even dismissal.

But it is unclear whether the Bank’s working environment is contributing to a lack of diversity at its most senior levels.

One of the Bank’s deputy governors, Ben Broadbent, was forced to apologise after being accused of sexism when he controversially described the UK economy as “menopausal” earlier this year.

The Treasury Committee and its chairman have been outspoken on the issue of diversity, particularly in the wake of Jonathan Haskel’s appointment to the Monetary Policy Committee.

Mr Haskel won the appointment in May despite a female-dominated shortlist, with four women having been in the running.

It leaves just one woman on the Bank’s nine-strong rate-setting committee - Silvana Tenreyro.

The Bank of England’s annual report shows that the proportion of women in senior roles has fallen from 30% to 29%, while the proportion of black, Asian, minority ethnic (BAME) employees in senior management is down to 5%.

The central bank itself launched an Inclusion Strategy in 2017, meant to “help strengthen our diverse and inclusive culture” and support an environment that “brings cognitive differences to the fore and a culture that allows everyone to contribute and maximise their potential”.