An investigation into allegations of bullying and discrimination at Britain's equality watchdog has been paused. The claims by staff are made against Baroness Falkner, the head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and other members of its board.
Details of the allegations were recently reported by Channel 4 News. A spokesperson for the EHRC said it is now seeking legal advice "on the impact of leaked confidential information".
"We must ensure its integrity and that it is fair to all parties concerned" he added. Baroness Falkner previously said she would be co-operating fully and would present a "detailed rebuttal" to the investigators working on the case.
She said that she took the allegations very seriously and with humility and she had every confidence in being exonerated. Details of the allegations have not been shared by the watchdog, but Channel 4 News reported on that some staff had said:
- there had been an "increase in bullying, harassment and discrimination" within the EHRC
- impartiality and independence from government is "under threat"
- the EHRC chair and board have been "assisting the government in undermining trans rights by proposing amendments to the Equality Act"
The role of the EHRC is to provide guidance and enforce the law to protect against discrimination. EHRC chief executive, Marcial Boo, said that the watchdog would "continue to protect the rights of everyone in Britain, including those with the protected characteristics of sex and gender reassignment".
In April, Baroness Falkner advised the UK government that it was worth considering redefining sex as "biological sex" in the Equality Act, which the EHRC said would make offers of single-sex services easier. Campaign groups and LGBT charities are divided over the intervention.
In 2022, the watchdog asked the Scottish government to pause its reforms to the gender recognition process because "more detailed consideration" was needed. Campaigners subsequently called for the EHRC's status as an independent group to be revoked.