Gender-sensitive human resources policies help sustaining gender balance in all parliamentary bodies and at all levels



  • What measures are in place to create a gender-sensitive and family-friendly working culture in legislatures?



Gender-sensitive parliaments respond to the needs and interests of both women and men in their structures, operations, methods and work, and remove barriers to women fulfilling their potential.

Human resource policies are a means of introducing gender-friendly parliamentary working procedures, such as provisions relating to sitting time, parental leave, proxy voting, and promoting work-life balance.

To support women and men caring for infants and small children, parliaments can earmark funds to ensure that proper facilities are in place to ensure both men and women can fully partake in all parliamentary proceedings. This may include the establishment of childcare or crèche facilities in the parliament, proper facilities to enable women to breast-feed, or family rooms.

Parliaments can also promote a gender-sensitive working culture through codes of conduct that promote gender-sensitive language and sanction gender-discriminatory behaviour and speech, being careful to respect freedoms of speech and expression. Gender equality mechanisms can review such codes as well as broader rules of procedure on a regular basis, to identify discriminatory provisions, such as gender-biased dress codes for men and women and use of gender-insensitive language. Finally, it is important that both grievance and disciplinary mechanisms are in place to enable discriminated parties to file complaints and to sanction offending members particularly in cases involving sexual harassment.

Gender mainstreaming and equality policies are also evolving to include progressive elements that reflect broader changes in society. It is important that parliaments and legislatures, as representatives of the population, reflect and channel positive societal developments.



  • Setting limits to voting times to promote work-life balance;
  • Aligning voting in plenary as well as sittings with school calendars and holidays;
  • Introducing parental leave provisions to allow both men and women to engage in childcare and rearing activities;
  • Establishing childcare facilities;
  • Providing breast-feeding facilities to enable new mothers to continue participating in parliamentary activities;
  • Developing a code of conduct or ethics for MPs and staff that include provisions on gender-sensitive behaviour and language;
  • Establishing and adequately resourcing grievance and disciplinary mechanisms;
  • Reflecting progressive societal gender equality developments through policy provisions to secure LGBTIQ rights;
  • Organising seminars and gender training sessions addressing both men and women employed in the parliament and MPs on a regular basis about existing legal provisions, counselling facilities and initiatives taken by governmental, gender equality mechanisms and civil society organizations.



  • Indirectly reinforcing gender roles and responsibilities (e.g. only providing ‘maternity’ leave);
  • Focus of work-life balance efforts on women only;
  • Lack of consequences for gender-biased behaviour or sexual harassment;
  • Lack or insufficient reporting channels for incidences of sexual harassment.




Several OECD member state parliaments have adopted family-friendly provisions to promote work-life balance. The Danish parliament does not allow voting after 7:00pm on sitting days, while Sweden’s parliament tries to avoid evening voting as well as votes held on Mondays and Fridays. In Finland, a motion was introduced to limit plenary sessions and parliamentary debates. The Swiss parliament has taken steps to align sittings with the school calendar and holidays.

Though civil service parental leave is usually provided only to parliamentary staff, some parliaments have adopted initiatives to introduce maternity, paternity or parental leave provisions. Israel’s Knesset allows either parent to take 12 weeks of fully paid leave upon the birth of a child. The parliaments of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland and the Netherlands allow for substitution of parliamentarians on leave, while the Portuguese parliament provides for ‘temporary substitution’ without loss of pay for parliamentarians taking maternity or paternity leave. The Australian House of Representatives allows for proxy voting in cases where women are breastfeeding at the same time a vote is called, following a report undertaken by the Procedure Committee on Options for Nursing Mothers.

A number of parliaments have established crèche or childcare facilities. Both the Swedish and German parliaments provide crèche facilities for all parliamentary members and staff. Scotland’s parliament has opened their daycare facilities to the children of members of the public visiting the premises. In Japan, the Secretariats of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors have their own action plans to promote women’s participation among their staff members and to support their child rearing.
Some parliaments have addressed different forms of gender-based harassment through policies, codes of conduct or specific resolutions. The Canadian Senate has adopted the Policy on Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace that applies to all members and staff. The Scottish parliament’s code of conduct requires that parliamentarians treat each other with dignity and respect, and states that “bullying and harassment, including any allegation of sexual harassment, will be taken seriously and investigated.”

In Mexico, parliamentary members of staff who experience harassment can file a complaint with the Bureau of the Senate, which in turn coordinates with judicial units to redress such incidences. Mexico has also developed a single protocol for the prevention, attention and sanction of sexual harassment which contains specific regulations and preventive actions to promote an institutional culture of gender equality, a work environment free of violence and gender stereotypes, to contribute to access to justice and to inhibit any form of sexual harassment. The Slovenian, Swedish, and Luxembourgish parliaments have adopted sexual harassment provisions, and both of the latter parliaments also include grievance procedures for redress. The parliaments in Sweden and Luxembourg have also adopted policy provisions to protect the rights of members of the LGBTIQ community.

In Slovenia, the President of the National Assembly can issue warnings when parliamentarians use gender-biased or derogatory language. Likewise, in March 2017, the European Parliament suspended an MEP for his use of sexist language; in addition to a suspension of 10 days, the MEP also lost his daily subsistence allowance for 30 days. Sweden has also adopted gender-related provisions governing cyber-bullying and use of social media.