Month: December 2013

Time for a Change in the Law

Posted on Updated on

Tim Field, in his book “ Bully in Sight” states that bullying is widespread. Research carried out by Cardiff University and Plymouth University found that just over half of their sample had experienced ill-treatment in the workplace. Paul Suff and Marie Strebler in ‘Bullying and Harassment – Building a Culture of Dignity and Respect’ found that 29% of their respondents were bullied by colleagues with whom they worked with directly. Bullying is therefore a common feature of the British workplace but unlike some European countries, bullying is not illegal. Ministers believe that present employment law and the means of redress through the Tribunal system is adequate.

I could do nothing to address the bullying /misconduct I experienced by the Public Officers which resulted in my early retirement. I followed the complaints procedure but just like so many others I have spoken to, the outcome did not match the evidence I had. Suff and Strebler found that only 3% of their respondents felt their actions had solved the problem. The investigation carried out by an investigator who was in a subordinate position to the Public Officers who I was complaining about, did not speak with me or any of my witnesses and therefore did not look at any evidence. The investigator’s report which was accepted by a senior Public Official, was therefore biased and contradictory. I  made a further complaint regarding the investigation, but the response did not answer any of the issues I raised. I offered to meet face to face on more than one occasion but this was always ignored. Tim Field states in his book “Bully In Sight,” “In avoiding face-to-face contact in this manner, the bully is revealing both fear and reluctance to accept responsibility for the actions they are currently pursuing.”

As I was complaining about Public Officers, I went to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO). After looking at all my evidence, the LGO investigator phoned me apologising as my issue was outside his remit. I wrote to Brandon Lewis MP, undersecretary for Communities and Local Government suggesting an Ombudsman to look into Misconduct of Public Officers. The reply was to follow the Grievance Procedure and if this was unsatisfactory to seek redress through an Employment Tribunal which the Government feels is adequate to deal with workplace malpractices. However bullying continues to be legal and therefore there are no grounds to take to an Employment Tribunal.

Sir Hugh Orde, President of the Association of Chief of Police Officers, in the light of the Plebgate affair involving Andrew Mitchell MP. has called for a public debate regarding the creation of an Ombudsman to look into misconduct of Police Officers (Guardian 16 October 2013). I believe that there should be an Ombudsman to look into the Misconduct of all Public Officers who are subject to the offence of ‘Misconduct in a Public Office’ particularly as the full cost of bullying in the public sector is borne by the taxpayer. As Tim Field states, “Whether in teaching, nursing or local or national government, the Audit Commission should have an interest in the drain on the public purse that bullying imposes, particularly with regard to employers who support the bully and choose to defend tribunals and court actions.”

Consequently I am fuelled with a sense of injustice that those who bullied me and ended my career are still employed and have not received any disciplinary procedures. Like all other bullied victims, I too suffered typical stress symptoms resulting in high blood pressure, change in sleeping and eating patterns, panic attacks, sense of isolation and unworthiness. I became obsessive, having to constantly talk about my situation which eventually impacted upon relationships with family and friends. Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD 2005b) has listed many of the physical and psychological symptoms caused by bullying. It is also now recognised that exposure to bullying can cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Rennie Peyton (2003)

I now have a desire to bring about change in order to seek justice for all UK employees whose life, family and health have been turned upside down by these bullies who are presently protected by the UK justice system.

Laws are now in place to protect people against sexual harassment and discrimination on the grounds of race, disability etc. “ In each case there was initial resistance and reluctance to act, but now respect  for others, especially those who differ from society’s currently accepted ‘norm’ is incorporated into human knowledge and, where appropriate, enshrined in law.” Tim Field

It is now time to protect hard working  people by having Dignity at Work also enshrined in law.

I need as many stories and experiences as possible so if you are one of the many UK employees who have been ill treated in the workplace, please share your story.

Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers against workplace bullying in the UK