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Royal household’s HR policies ‘improved after probe into Meghan bullying claims’

The Duchess of Sussex denied allegations of bullying (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
The Duchess of Sussex denied allegations of bullying (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

An investigation into the handling of bullying allegations made against the Duchess of Sussex has seen HR policies improved for royal staff – but the changes have not been made public.

A senior palace source cited the confidentiality of those who took part in the independent review as the reason why details were not released, after current and former workers were invited to speak about their experiences of working for Meghan.

Members of the royal family have been made aware of the changes to policies and procedures of the royal household’s HR (Human Resources) department as have staff, said the source.

The issue was raised during a media briefing about the Sovereign Grant which showed the monarchy cost the taxpayer 102.4 million during 2021/22 – an increase of £14.9 million, or 17%, on the previous financial year.

Royal activity, curtailed by the pandemic, was beginning to pick up during the period and a number of expenditure areas have increased, with travel rising by £1.3 million to £4.5 million, and property maintenance soaring by £14.4 million to £63.9 million, as the 10-year project to renovate Buckingham Palace continued.

The Sovereign Grant increased marginally by £400,000 to £86.3 million during 2021/22. A core element of £51.8 million funds the Queen’s official duties and her household, and an additional £34.5 million pays for ongoing reservicing costs for the palace.

Buckingham Palace launched the investigation in March 2021, and invited past and present employees to speak in confidence about their experiences of working for Meghan, after it was alleged she drove out two personal assistants and staff were “humiliated” on several occasions.

The duchess’ lawyers denied the allegations when they were made.

At the time, the palace said any changes in policies or procedures recommended following the review would be shared in the Sovereign Grant report which is published annually and documents royal accounts for the year.

Under the heading “Staff Report”, the 2021-22 financial document listed HR policies and procedures but it is not known which were introduced following the investigation carried out by a law firm and funded privately, thought to be a senior member of the royal family.

The report also outlines the royal household’s “Concern at Work” policy which encourages individuals to raise any concerns they may have about the conduct of others and sets out how issues can be aired, with the policy accessible to staff on the intranet site – known as the Coronet.

The financial document also states: “Counselling and support are provided through the household’s long-established employee assistance programme and staff have been trained to be Mental Health First Aiders… Managers are trained to support, mentor and coach their teams and monitor their contribution…”

A senior palace source said: “I’m not going to comment on the changes that have been made to the policies and procedures – I’ll just say that the policies and procedures have been updated…the policies in relation to the Concern at Work apply to everyone who works within the royal household.”

The source went on to say: “Because of the confidentiality of the discussions we have not communicated the detailed recommendations. The recommendations have been incorporated within policies and procedures wherever appropriate and policies and procedures have changed.

Royal visit to the Caribbean – Day 4
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Jamaica, Belize and the Bahamas, was the most costly official trip of 2021-22. Jane Barlow/PA

“So all members of staff, all members of the royal family will be aware of what the policies and procedures are, the revised policies and procedures.”

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been contacted for a response.

The most expensive official trip was the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas in March by the Voyager minister jet which cost £226,383 and included the cost of a planning trip to the three countries by royal staff.

William and Kate received a warm welcome in the Caribbean but faced protests from those calling for an apology and reparations for slavery, and were criticised for certain elements of the tour deemed to hark back to colonial days.

Sir Michael Stevens, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said as planned the shortfall between the £102.4 million spent on the monarchy and the £86.3 Sovereign Grant, used to fund official duties and building work, was met by drawing on reserves and supplementary income from sources like the Royal Collection Trust, which opens royal residences to the public.

Sir Michael, who is responsible for the financial management of the Royal Household, said: “The Sovereign Grant shows increased net expenditure at 102.4 million, up 17%, with the majority of the increased spend coming on the Buckingham Palace reservicing programme, which saw a 41% increase in spend to £54.6 million.”

The cost of the core Sovereign Grant per person in the UK
(PA Graphics)

The £369 million reservicing programme is updating the electrical cabling, plumbing and heating at Buckingham Palace over 10 years and the royal aide said they were “confident” they would be within budget.

A deadline was set last year to complete a number of projects to allow scaffolding to be removed from key areas so the palace could play its part in Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

He added: “Looking ahead, with the Sovereign Grant likely to be flat in the next couple of years, inflationary pressures on operating costs and our ability to grow supplementary income likely to be constrained in the short term, we will continue to deliver against our plans and manage these impacts through our own efforts and efficiencies.”

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, has called for what it claims is the “true cost of the monarchy” to be reported in the accounts – an estimated £345 million a year.

The figure includes the £86.3 Sovereign Grant, along with the income from the private estates of the Queen and Prince of Wales, which do not go to the Treasury, the cost to local authorities of hosting royal visits and other elements.

Graham Smith, from Republic, said: “Can this expenditure be justified? Can we get a head of state that costs less than this, so we can spend that money elsewhere?

“Why is the monarchy not facing significant cuts while essential public services have been cut time and again over the past decade? Is this an ethical use of public money? What else could we afford for that amount?”

“The Irish presidency – which costs around 4.8m euro (£4.1m) – demonstrates quite clearly that we can get an effective head of state for a fraction of the cost. Meanwhile, the £345m cost of the monarchy could pay for as many as 13,000 new nurses or teachers.”