Ben Howlett MP describes institutionalised bullying in the conservative youth wing. Ben Howlett raised concerns over the behaviour of Mark Clarke who ran a campaign bussing conservative volunteers around the country. A young supporter Elliot Johnson, committed suicide in September this year and named Mark Clarke in a letter to his parents. Ben Howlett first raised concerns about Mark Clarke’s behaviour back in 2010 to conservative party bosses. Other activists had also made complaints about Mark Clarke according to BBC news. Ben Howlett reports that the complaints were brushed under the carpet. He said that he had suffered mental health issues as a result of his own bullying by Clarke.
When will the government legislate against bullying? Acas has recently reported that workplace bullying is on the increase but all that is ever talked about is ensuring anti bullying policies are followed! Policies are clearly not enough. Workplace bullying has been discussed for years. Masses of research carried out showing the harmful effects upon the individual and the economy and all we hear is follow the policy. How many more lives have to be lost before the government legislates. Please contact your MP if you believe that workplace bullying is unacceptable and something needs to be done.
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On Friday 7th March 2014, it was reported in the Standard, the BBC Director General, Tony Hall, said that the BBC has a bullying problem – but we are on top of it.
“The findings of an investigation by Dinah Rose QC into BBC’s working environment, commissioned in the light of Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes and published in May, found broader issues of bullying and the inappropriate use of power of which sexual harassment is only one manifestation.”
“I want a culture where people can come to work and feel they are valued and don’t feel bullied. These are not easy things to deal with but we are working our way through that.” Tony Hall
However, on the 8th March 2014 it was reported in the Daily Mail that “after senior executive was found guilty of bullying but then moved to what has been described as a plum job.”
The report went on to say, “Jim Buchanan, a news chief, received a written warning after a year long investigation upheld claims that he bullied and intimidated staff.
The complaints were said to be about verbal abuse and sending intimidating emails to colleagues.
But yesterday sources said Mr. Buchanan had been moved to another senior role, leading to criticism that the Corporation was again failing to take bullying claims seriously.”
Tim Field in his book, Bully In Sight, described how it was not unusual for the perpetrators of workplace bullying to be promoted while the victims suffered, receiving no justice.
It is clear to me, evidenced by the numerous reports in the media, that without legislation this practice of workplace bullying is never going to end as employers are not going to take it seriously. Consequently, individuals and our economy will continue to suffer.
Support the campaign to Introduce Legislation to protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying.
Legislation has been passed in Tennesse USA, to Protect Workers against Workplace Bullying. Employment Rights eroded in the UK while employment rights increase in other countries.
In my blog dated October 2013 I referred to the survey carried out by the OECD which showed that UK workers were the 3rd least protected in terms of employment rights out of 40 developed countries. http://xperthr.co.uk/blogsemployment-intelligence/2013/03employment-law-reform-progress/#sthash.8QMj41F4.dpuf
The only countries which had less protection was the USA and Canada. Since then the employment protection for UK workers has deteriorated eg introduction of fees for employment tribunals; you have to be employed for 2 years instead of 1 year to be able to claim unfair dismissal (see Department for Business Innovation and Skills Employment Law 2013 Progress on Reform page 24 paragraph 2.3
However, Canadian Provinces have legislation to protect their workers against harassment / bullying in places such as Quebec, Saskatchewan, Ontario British Columbia. (see JILPT REPORT Workplace Bullying and Harassment No.12 20130.
In 2008, the OECD sited the USA as having the least protection for workers in the workplace. Yet now we see the Healthy Workplace Bill has been introduced into many States to protect workers against workplace bullying. Tennesse is the first state to enact the Law on June 3 2014. http://www.healthyworkplacebill.org/states/tn/tennessee.php
On April 13 2014, in Massachusetts, the Bill reached its 2nd reading in the House in the USA.
Nevada State Senator, Richard Segerblom of Las Vegas proposes amending Nevada’s employment discrimination law so that anyone who is a victim of a hostile workplace environment has a legal remedy whether or not they can show illegal discrimination.
This I would argue, would overcome the absurdity of our present law in the UK as I endeavoured to show in the previous blog with various examples.
However, what is happening in the UK today to protect UK workers against bullying in the workplace – NOTHING! There has been a lot of talk in the past by unions, MP’s and others, such as the great work by Tim Field and the Andrea Adams Trust to show the seriousness of the problem in the UK and how it is affecting the mental health of individuals and also the economy as well as business organisations and the efficiency of workplaces but still workplace bullying continues.
As well as the references I have referred to in previous blogs, see the speech made by John Robertson MP in 2008 on 16th December http://www.john-robertson.co.uk/2008/12/dignity-at-work/
Apart from this blog I have seen no recent campaigning from MP’s or unions to stop this evil practice.
We need to follow the example of other countries and learn from them. We must not give up fighting against this morally outrageous practice which needs to be made illegal.
Support the Campaign to Introduce Legislation to Protect Workers and our Economy against Workplace Bullying
2004 Voluntary Project to Combat Workplace Bullying in UK. 10 Years Later – FAILED. Now is the time to bring in UK Legislation to Protect our Workers as in other Countries.
Valerie Davey MP. (Lab) for Bristol West stated in 2004
“The need for the Government to be more proactive in promoting and ensuring dignity at work for all employees at every level has been reiterated from the back benches of this Chamber and the House of Lords since at least 1996……
All Members of Parliament must know through their surgeries of cases of constituents experiencing bullying at work and being unable to voice that experience and seek a resolution. When we first heard about those often desperate cases most of us were unaware of the scale of the problem….
Subsequent evidence from trade Unions confirmed that despite years of campaigning against bullying, it remains a persistent and extensive problem.”
Valerie Davey MP went on to describe a new project that was being launched.
“The project has been launched to provide supportive advice and training to organisations that are trying to tackle bullying, train employees as counsellors, devise and promote a voluntary charter on dignity at work, promote examples of excellent employers in the UK and produce a benchmark that enables organisations to measure their success in achieving dignity at work and a “ban the bullying” pack.”
She went on to say “ I remind the Government that other European countries have followed the legislative route and I hope the work (Project) will be compared with the work in other countries.”
Ms Davey MP hoped that the project would be enough to stamp out bullying in the workplace and therefore no need to bring in legislation. However she went on to say that if the project was not successful that Ministers would then reconsider and bring in legislation.
“-and with assurance –from the Minister that the project will be monitored and that should good practice not prove as infectious as we all hope, the Government will reconsider the possibility of legislation and revisit the new clause or a similar provision later”
That was back in March 2004.
Ten years later the project I argue has not been successful. Surely 10 years is long enough to test out a project. Was there any monitoring? Are there any reports regarding any monitoring? I think the following links to newspaper articles over recent years reporting on workplace bullying is enough to show that ‘the project has not been successful and therefore legislation needs to be brought in, in line with other countries.
These are just a small percentage of articles I have collected from newspapers which I believe shows that the Project referred to by Valerie Davey has not been successful.
It also must be recognised that the articles are referring to large Public Sector organisations which attracts media attention. We must not forget the millions of workers employed in small businesses who equally suffer psychological trauma by workplace bullies but do not attract media attention.
Surely after 10 years, MP’s need to start acting again in order to bring in legislation, in line with other countries, to protect our workers and economy from the insidious bullying that is taking place every day in organisations up and down this country.
Tell us about your experiences and opinions. Do you think the UK has a problem with Workplace Bullying? Do you think that there should be legislation to protect our workers?
Support the Campaign To Introduce Legislation To Protect Workers and our Economy Against Workplace Bullying
Here is an example, given by Baroness Gibson, of the absurdity of our present law.
“I can best illustrate the absurdity and ambivalence of the law by telling the House of the experiences of two members of my previous union. A young man and a young woman worked in a London teaching hospital. Both received appalling treatment at the hands of their male supervisor by whom they were constantly undermined and their lives made a misery. The young woman’s bullying and denigration also included unwanted sexual advances. At the same time, the supervisor embarked on a campaign to humiliate and reduce the standing of the young man by a series of mean and malevolent acts.
They both went to the same internal appeal. The young woman was held to have been sexually harassed and the young man to have been bullied. Both sustained substantial financial losses as well as suffering emotionally. The young woman was advised that she had a sex discrimination claim which she lodged and eventually settled out of court. The young man had no legal basis for a claim and received no effective remedy for his very similar experiences. He would have had to leave his job had he wished to claim constructive dismissal, as I explained earlier. I believe that that highlights graphically why a new law is needed. If the Bill had been in place, both could have presented bullying cases and both could have received their just rewards.”
I can provide another similar example which shows the absurdity of our present law. In this particular case the bullying involved “Blocking promotion or progress within the workplace.” ACAS
Governors from a Local Authority School requested support from a Local Authority Officer to help them with their Head Teacher process and interview which can take months to complete. At the same time a number of Local Authority Officers were being made redundant due to cut backs. The Head Teacher vacancy was advertised and the school received a number of applicants which included the Acting Head Teacher, Local Authority Officers who were due to be made redundant (colleagues of the LA Officer who was ‘supporting’ the governors) and there were other well qualified applicants from other schools. When it came to the short listing the only people to be shortlisted were the Acting Head Teacher and the colleagues of the LA Officer who were due to be made redundant. During the interview process the school governors became aware that the LA Officer, who was supposed to be impartial (according to the Nolan Principles), was trying to put pressure on the school governors to appoint the LA Officer’s favoured candidate. Hence, not only were the Nolan Principles not being adhered to but also this LA Officer was trying to block the promotion of certain candidates.
Luckily in this case, the governors became aware of what the LA Officer was trying to do and made a complaint to her line manager. No action was taken against the LA Officer. She continued to ‘support’ school governors at other schools.
A couple years later, an Acting Head Teacher of another school (School A) came into conflict with the same LA Officer because of a statement that the LA Officer made about the school to the Local Council. The statement contradicted a statement the LA Officer had previously made to the Acting Head Teacher.
The school governors of school A advertised the post for the substantive Head Teacher. The same LA Officer was used to ‘support’ the governors in the interview process which took 3 months. This was during the time that the LA Officer and the Acting Head Teacher were in conflict. The Acting Head Teacher was short listed with a few other candidates. The female Acting Head Teacher was not appointed. The successful candidate was male and had been an Acting Head Teacher at a previous school (School B) that had gone into special measures. The governors at that school (School B) did not interview him for the position of the substantive post. There is perhaps reason to understand why.
Members of staff and staff governors at school A, were concerned about the LA Officer’s lack of impartiality regarding the process for the Head Teacher interview. A grievance was raised and it was discovered that
- a bizarre scoring process had been set up for the various interview tasks. For example, a 10 minute conversation with 3 children aged from 9 to 11 was given equal importance as the half hour professional interviews with governors on leadership and school standards.
- The LA Officer did not follow or inform the governors accurately the guidelines set down by the LA regarding Head Teacher interviews.
- The LA Officer did not inform the governors at the short listing stage that a candidate, which ended up being the successful candidate had previously been an Acting Head Teacher of a school that went into special measures. This, the LA Officer was legally bound to do.
- The governors on the interviewing panel told the governing body that the successful candidate was appointed based solely on the scores. When the scores were looked at, the successful candidate did better on tasks such as the 10 minute conversation with 3 children, a 10 minute school assembly and a presentation entitled, ‘Washed up on a desert island and given 3 wishes.’ Staff accused the LA Officer of not acting impartially during these tasks and trying to manipulate the scoring.
- The successful candidate however did not do well in the half hour interview on leadership and the school budget task, which most people would consider to be more important and should receive heavier weighting in terms of scores.
- School A the previous year, had been given a ‘Good’ with outstanding features by an Ofsted inspection with Good capacity for further improvement . 15 months after the male candidate had been in post, the school went into special measures.
The Acting Head teacher of School A felt that she had been discriminated against because of the conflict over the allegation the LA officer made about the school to the local council in order to support the LA management’s plans for change.
As Time Field wrote
“You have foolishly dared to disagree with the bully or drawn attention to the absurdity or illogicality or the bully’s way of managing or have the temerity to point out the foolhardiness, impracticability, short sightedness and equableness of management’s plans for change and will now be subjected to (bullying) behaviours. The bully realizes that total control over the victim will never be possible and therefore the only way forward is to eliminate the offending individual.
The Acting Head Teacher believes this describes why she was discriminated against. Yet, defending the school was the Acting Head Teacher’s job.
If she had claimed discrimination on the grounds of gender, a protected characteristic, she would have had grounds to go to an Employment Tribunal. Because she believed she was discriminated against on the grounds of the professional conflict regarding planned changes to the school, she had no grounds, yet suffered the same mistreatment and detriment as if it had been on grounds of gender discrimination. A complaint was made to the governors and to senior level in the Local Authority and again no action was taken.
In the first example I gave above, the Head Teacher was being discriminated against not because of a protected characteristic but because the LA Officer wanted to enable her colleagues, to get a job. Luckily in that instance, the discrimination didn’t succeed because of the awareness of the governors. If it had, that particular Acting Head Teacher would have had no grounds to take to an Employment Tribunal because it was not based on a protected characteristic, even though she too would have suffered the same treatment and detriment as if she had been discriminated against based on one of the protected characteristics.
I would argue that the behaviour of the LA officer amounts to misconduct. This brings me to Tim Field and his book ‘Bully in Sight,’
He would class this type of behaviour as ‘corporate bullying.’ “He states on page 182 that some contributory factors that could be loosely termed as corporate bullying include such things as when bullying is reported, there is an unwillingness to admit that those responsible for recruitment and promotion could possibly have made a mistake.” This appeared to the Acting Head Teacher of School A, the stance the governors took when she raised a grievance.
“If there have been previous complaints or investigations – there are uncomfortable questions of competence, negligence and liability” This appeared to the Acting Head Teacher, the stance the LA took, as according to her, the LA denied knowing about any such previous complaint.
“dismissal of evidence, regardless of value or quantity” The Acting Head Teacher provided a great deal of evidence which was ignored and the governors and LA provided a great deal of contradictory evidence which was not questioned.
Tim Field also went on to say that corporate bullying is also characterized by “an unwillingness to admit that anything could be wrong; a cover-up culture; and an unwillingness to address bullying.” The Acting Head teacher of school A felt that this described her experience when trying to get her grievance / complaint heard.
No action was taken in either of these examples against the LA Officer. A great deal of time and money was used to investigate which came out of the public purse as the Local Authority is a public body. Yet there is no impartial body to take such a complaint to. As bullying and discrimination based on non protected characteristics are not illegal, there are no grounds to take to an Employment Tribunal. The Local Government Ombudsman also has no remit to look at such complaints.
I believe these examples support Baroness Gibson’s argument for the reason to legislate against bullying in the workplace and to widen the scope of discrimination and not just base discrimination on protected characteristics. I also believe that there should be an impartial body to investigate misconduct by public officers such as the Local Government Ombudsman.
As Tim Field wrote in Bully In Sight
“Over the decades, precedents have been set, including discrimination (based on protected characteristics) sexual harassment and child abuse. 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.
It is time for bullying at work to join the list.
Support the campaign to introduce legislation to protect workers and our economy against workplace bullying.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged Bully In Sight, constructive dismissal, Employment Tribunal, gender discrimination, Head Teacher interviews, internal appeal, Local Authority School, Nolan Principles, protected characteristics, sex discrimination, Tim Field, workplace bully.