I consider myself very lucky to have spent my time in Parliament working in an office that not only abides by modern employment practices but is led by a boss who cares deeply about the happiness and well-being of his staff. By someone who values and understands the crucial work of those that support him and insists that our hard work contributes to his success and achievements. Unfortunately, not all of 650 offices of MPs can say the same, and we must do more to raise employment standards across Parliament.
The office of an MP is unique, and generally only really understood by those that have worked in them. Attempts by the House of Commons, IPSA and other external organisations to implement different practices only highlight just how unique the relationship between an MP and their staff is. An MP knows they need staff – it would be impossible to run an office without them – but most do not relish the idea of having to be an employer, and all the responsibilities that come with it. They came to Parliament for many noble reasons, but being an excellent employer is probably quite low on their list. Some new arrivals to Westminster are often quite surprised with just how much responsibility they have; expecting that there might be an internal body that takes that important role off your hands.
Unfortunately, until now, that has not been the case. While Hive Support is not an internal body, our independent nature ensures that the important relationship between an MP and their staff is protected, and that support, assistance and guidance is also available to relieve team pressures and provide solutions where needed. Because of our extensive experience across Parliament, we know better than most what the priorities are for MPs and staffers, and outsourcing employment responsibilities to us takes that pressure off their hands.
Getting a job working for an MP is a privilege, and an accomplishment that many are rightly proud of. For many it is a first job, and it should be a place where they are developed and nurtured before moving on to a new career. It should not be fraught with so many of the experiences we have heard being reported across Parliament in allegations of inappropriate behaviours, harassment and bullying. We also need to appreciate the experience that long-term staff can bring and the continuity this offers to a team. With appropriate procedures in place for regular supervision meetings and appraisals, we can ensure that staff who wish to stay are supported and incentivised to do so. High staff turnover is costly and can be disruptive, but we must offer career progression and personal development to encourage more to stay.
Having a reliable, experienced team behind an MP offers immeasurable benefits to constituents, stakeholders and MPs themselves. When a Member can be sat in the Chamber for hours at a time, or away on Ministerial business, knowing that their team are happy and their constituents in experienced hands takes away at least one pressure. With a huge number of MPs standing down at this election, we must not lose those experienced staff that have supported them for years. At Hive Support we are ready to work with new MPs to help them build teams of experienced staff who can support them in Westminster and the constituency as soon as they are ready.
If you work for a Member of Parliament who is standing down, or unexpectedly loses their seat, please get in touch with us to see how we can help: https://hivesupport.co.uk/recruitment.
Sam Mackewn worked for Rt Hon Alistair Burt from 2006-2019, supporting him as a Shadow Minister, Government Minister and Back-bench MP.