LRD Booklets February 2019

Tackling bullying and harassment at work - a guide for union reps and workers



[pages 3-4]

Bullying and harassment is a top concern for trade union safety reps, second only to stress. The 2018 TUC biennial survey of safety representatives found that 45% of safety reps put bullying and harassment in their list of top five workplace concerns. Although this has fallen back slightly from 48% in 2016, the problems have got markedly more common in local and central government. These are now the two worst sectors according to the survey, cited by 63% (compared to 54% in 2016) and 71% (up from 61% in 2016) of safety reps in those sectors.

A 2018 Cabinet Office review found a massive 73% of respondents reported that they have experienced bullying and harassment in their civil service career, and 78% had observed it happening to others. Dame Laura Cox’s 2018 independent inquiry into the bullying and harassment of House of Commons staff found that bullying, harassment and sexual harassment of members of staff, both by other members of staff and by some MPs, has been known about and tolerated for far too long, despite efforts by some, including recognised trade unions, to persuade the senior administration to take it seriously. The latest annual NHS Staff Survey (2017) also shows that bullying and harassment remains an extensive problem in the health sector, with one in four (24%) of all NHS staff reporting they have experienced bullying in some way.

Internationally, the #MeToo movement sparked worldwide condemnation of sexual harassment and has brought the issue firmly into the spotlight.

In the UK, Women and Equalities Committee chair Maria Miller MP described as “utterly shameful” that “unwanted sexual comments, touching, groping and assault are seen as an everyday occurrence and part of the culture in many workplaces”.

The Federation of Entertainment Unions says that in the media and creative industries the movement has provided further evidence to force the industry to acknowledge the problem.

As this booklet sets out, safety and other union reps have an important role in tackling bullying and harassment at work on both an individual and collective level. This updated Labour Research Department (LRD) guide provides trade union reps with examples of best practice and practical guidance on what they can do to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, how they can confront problems, and how they can best provide support and representation for members who have been bullied and/or harassed.

It examines:

• what bullying and harassment is — providing examples of unacceptable behaviour, the causes of bullying and harassment, and its consequences for individuals and organisations;

• the latest information on the extent of bullying and harassment at work, including recent union surveys and academic research;

• the law on bullying and harassment — setting out how union reps can use health and safety and equalities legislation and looking at union demands for changes to the law;

• TUC, trade union, Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employment law service Acas and other advice for union reps on how to recognise and raise awareness about bullying and harassment;

• information, advice and guidance for union reps on how to prevent and collectively tackle bullying and harassment and what support is available from unions and other organisations;

• how reps can support individual members;

• examples of union action on bullying and harassment, at national, sector and workplace level; and

• how reps can work with employers to tackle bullying and harassment, including good practice examples of union-negotiated policies and joint union/employer campaigns and initiatives.

The booklet also includes recent developments concerning sexual harassment, although this is covered in more detail in the LRD guide for union reps, Tackling sexual harassment at work. The LRD booklet, Promoting race equality at work, includes a Chapter on tackling racism, harassment and bullying at work.

LRD, Tackling sexual harassment at work

LRD, Promoting race equality at work