workplace bullying in the UK

Protection for German Workers against Workplace Bullying

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In Germany the Ministry Of Labour and Social Affairs on its website page, “Bullying at Work” states,
Employers are obliged to protect their employees’ right of privacy and health. They must therefore prevent mobbing, act against employees who mob others and take all possible measures to prevent mobbing in their companies.”

The German Constitution provides protection of personality, honour health and equal rights of individuals. This is deemed to include the outlawing of bullying. The German Civil Code (GCC) provides a legal foundation for contractual liability and tort claims which can be extended to claims for bullying and stress at work.

In addition many businesses treat bullying as a violation of their collective work agreements and/or have implemented internal regulations to address work-related stress and harassment.
Within this general framework, there are three categories of bullying:
1. harassment that is not based on Protected Characteristics (called bullying or mobbing);
2. harassment that is based on Protected Characteristics; and
3. bullying as a criminal offence.

Isn’t it about time that the UK also treated bullying as a criminal offence regardless of any protected characteristics?

Next week the blog will look in detail at the legislation in Sweden to protect their workers. Sweden was the first country in the world to enact specific anti bullying legislation. Following that, the blog will summarise legislation in other countries around the world and look at the reasons why UK politicians have not accepted the Dignity at Work Bill to provide the workers in the UK the same protection.

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


1 in 8 of our trainee doctors suffer bullying.

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1 in 8 of our trainee doctors suffer bullying.

It was reported in the Huffington Post in January 2012 that the recruitment company, ‘Monster’, carried out a survey, questioning 16,517 workers in 53 countries. The survey revealed that 25%  of British people said their work performance was adversely affected because of bullying. A study by Staffordshire University Business School found that about 14 million British workers suffered bullying. Bullying occurs in all walks of life, including amongst our doctors. GP online found  that 1 in 8 of our trainee doctors suffer bullying.  If bullying affects work performance, these trainee doctors are not therefore working to their best. Surely the British people want the very best in health care which means that doctors, when they come out of training, need to be performing to their very best. 1 in 8 of our doctors could therefore be doing better because of their mistreatment. Surely this is a strong enough argument in itself to make bullying illegal as we all need to have access to healthcare at some point in our lives. Do you agree?

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

Time for a Change in the Law

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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

Gill’s Story

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“Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.” ACAS

The bullying for me began with a meeting I was called to by a person in a very high position of power and authority within the public sector. I was told to bring a particular person who had a great deal of control and influence over my career. When I arrived, there was another public sector worker who had planned to make changes to the organization I was responsible for. I had disagreed with these changes and provided sound reasons based on objective data. At the meeting, I was threatened with legal action regarding a letter I was accused of writing. There was no letter at the meeting and when I asked what I had supposedly written, the bully could not tell me. I was therefore unable to defend myself as I had no idea what was being referred to. However because of the position this person held, he was believed and my reputation and professionalism and therefore my career and career progress were immediately harmed. Further actions were then taken by another senior public sector worker to undermine my position and career prospects further.

Tim Field, a victim of bullying, states in his book ‘Bully In Sight’ that bullying occurs when one person, typically (but not necessarily) in a position of power, authority, trust, responsibility, management etc, feels threatened by another person, usually (but not always) a subordinate who is displaying qualities of ability, popularity, knowledge, skill, strength and determination, tenacity, success etc. If necessary, the bully abuses his position of power, or calls on those with power to achieve these ends.

Because of the evidence I provided showing that the planned changes by the public sector worker did not make sense she got her superior to use his power to humiliate, threaten and injure me. I dared to show that I had knowledge, determination and tenacity to defend my organisation. After they had ‘injured’ me by seriously harming my reputation and bringing into doubt my professionalism and judgement, their plans finally were passed.

Tim Fields states “You have foolishly dared to disagree with the bully (and) have had the temerity to point out the foolhardiness, impracticability, short sightedness and inequableness of management’s plans for change and will now be subjected to (bullying) behaviours.

For me, Tim Fields has explained clearly the reasons why senior public sector workers decided to subject me to bullying behaviours. This resulted in me having to resign from the job that I had loved for 25 years because I could no longer face going into work where my reputation and professionalism had been seriously tarnished and the people who were responsible for supporting me not only turned their back on me but actually supported the bullying behaviour by ignoring all the evidence I tried to show them.

Tim Fields states, the abuse is usually a manager and when the abuse is revealed the employer, personnel and legal system express disbelief, horror and denial that such a horrific act could be taking place in their midst.

Does any of this sound similar to you? Perhaps your experience is different. Does your employer keep adding more and more to your workload? Are you shouted at consistently in front of colleagues? Have you been undermined and humiliated? Has bullying affected your family and relationships. Has it affected you financially? Do you dread going into work each day? Do you try to evade certain people or situations? Please tell us your story – we are listening.

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

Unfair Employment Practices

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Have you ever suffered stress because of unfair employment practices such as bullying?

Have you had your career ruined because you have had your reputation damaged owing to defamation?

Are you working under a zero hour contract, causing you financial insecurity, child minding problems or stress?

If you are experiencing any of these problems we would love to hear from you.

Did you know that UK workers are the third least protected within the work place out of 40 developed countries? Only the USA and Canada have less employment protection for its workers than the UK. 2008 OECD (

If you have suffered bullying, there is nothing you can do as successive governments have failed to pass the Dignity at Work Bill. . Lord Monkswell steered the Bill through the House of Lords in December 1996 and January 1997. It was then blocked by John Major’s Government in February 1997. The Bill started its progress again through the House of Lords in December 2001 under the guidance of Baroness Ann Gibson.

Defamation can only be heard in a High Court. Costs for this do not come in under £150,000 and regularly reach £500,000. Legal aid is not available so it is out of the reach of most people. (Tracey Brown MD of Sense About Science – libel reform campaign

Bullying, defamation and financial insecurity causes stress.

Taken from Business Matters:  November 20th 2012

Stress is among the biggest problems in British workplaces, with the cost to the British economy being estimated at £3.7 billion per year with more than 13 million employees at risk of mental health problems caused by the stress of their jobs, according to new research published [on 20th November 2012].

Dr Jeremy Broadhead, consultant psychiatrist at the Priory Group, commissioned the research, 

The HSE Labour Force Survey 2010/11 found that 10.8 million working days were lost due to stress, anxiety or depression, and the average number of days lost during each absence was 27.

It is not just absence which hits business. Figures from the Centre for Mental Health show that most people suffering with stress continue to work, but may struggle with concentration and effective decision making. It is estimated that this ‘presenteeism’ costs UK businesses £15.1 billion per year in reduced productivity.

With recent legislative changes, including the introduction of Employment Tribunal fees; the introduction of ‘owner employee’ contracts of employment, (under which employees will be given shares in exchange for waiving certain employment rights) and removal of the provisions on third party harassment in the Equality Act 2010, there is even less protection for English workers. (Employment Law Reform 2013:progress on reform)

Currently, there is decreasing spending on welfare protection and increasing barriers to employment protection. This will affect the level of stress experienced not just for those on low pay but also those in established well paid professions.

Improved employment rights/ protection provide workers with more security and confidence which is conducive to good mental health.

Dr Jeremy Broadhead and the HSE Labour Force have provided plenty of data to show the benefit of addressing stress in the workplace. The CAB want to hear about the personal stories behind this data.

How has stress  effected  you?  What caused your stress?

We want to highlight the personal impact and struggle of day to day living because of the lack of employment protection and legislation.

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

Gill seeks justice for employees

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I’m Gill Grantham and I am a volunteer with Plymouth Citizens Advice Bureau working in the social policy unit.

I took early retirement last year because of severe bullying within a public sector workplace. I now want to try to improve workplace practices and change legislation in order to protect the dignity of people at work.

I also want to make it easier for people to take employers to court if employees have been defamed. Employers may do this for various reasons but one reason is to prevent career progression.

Because of my work for CAB, I have come to understand the unfairness and abuse that has been made of  zero hour contracts by employers. Although there has been a lot of interest in the media recently regarding zero hour contracts, I believe that protection for employees need to be built into these contracts in order to prevent employers abusing the flexibility that these contracts offer.

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