One in three women say they are being bullied at work, according to a survey conducted by UNISON, the UK’s largest public-sector union.
Of those complaining of bullying, 35% had suffered for more than a year, with older female professional level staff being singled out as being the main perpetrators.
According to the survey, 90% of young women believe bullies can get away with it, 93% feel that people are too scared to report it, 82% that management is too geared towards performance, 77% that the complaints system does not work, 65% think the term is so vague you cannot enforce it, and 44% believe that bullying is normal.
The majority of bullied women said they suffer from anger, mental stress, depression, lowered confidence and insomnia.
UNISON and young women’s monthly magazine Company are launching a Bully Busters campaign, which is calling for the government to revise the current Dignity in the Workplace bill to include an anti-bullying policy enforced by employers.
Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said: “This shocking survey shows that the bullying and harassment of young women in the workplace is spiralling out of control.
“Many people do not realise that a drip feed of bullying behaviour can be as devastating as a major incident. Our research has shown that bullying is accepted in many organisations – we need to change this attitude now.”
Sarah Lewis, 27, a hospital management accountant, said: “My boss enjoyed having control and power over me. This included having to tell her when I was leaving the department on every occasion, including using the toilet.
“And when I requested annual leave she made it difficult and would wait until the last minute to approve it, which meant I had to pay more for my holidays.
“As a results of the bullying incidents I experienced, I decided to become a UNISON Branch Secretary to help others. The hospital has since changed its bullying and harassment policy to include better ways of dealing with bullying, like mediation.”
The Protection from Harassment Act 1997 means that victims of harassment at work can claim compensation from their employees. The scope of the act has also broadened to include harassment by third parties, so employers are now also required to protect their employees from external adverse behaviour.
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“I have been bullied and harassed by a female team leader. She constantly told me that the other team members didn’t like me, listened to my phone calls and talked about me when I was out of the office and she also told me that they had lied to get me into trouble. I was told that I couldn’t speak to certain people. This went on for 18 months. I have since been moved from that team but it continues as the people that work for this girl have been told not to help me or discuss work issues with me without her permission” – Name and address withheld