Bullying and harassment
Promoting dignity at work for all staff within higher education
The project aimed to provide practical guidance on steps that can be taken to encourage successful working relationships between staff, and in working towards the elimination of bullying and harassment in the workplace. Led by Jill Scott from Staffordshire University, the project led to the production of a guidance pack to assist higher education institutions (HEIs) in developing their own policies, practices and support mechanisms to promote dignity at work, using examples of good practice from other universities and colleges.
Dignity at work: a good practice guide for higher education institutions sets out how policies and procedures alone will not secure a harassment-free working environment. Employees at all levels of an organisation need to be involved in creating and implementing initiatives that lead to ownership of both the problem and the solution. Trade unions can play a pivotal role in this.
Investing in employees' wellbeing makes good business sense, not only in terms of improving performance, raising morale and reducing stress, but also in making HEIs more attractive places to work and study, aiding retention and improving overall performance.
The Health and Safety Executive estimates that bullying accounts for up to 50 per cent of stress-related workplace illnesses, which means that every year bullying costs UK employers 80 million lost working days and up to £2 billion in lost revenue. This is in addition to the human cost to the targets, and the risk to employers that employees will take legal action resulting in adverse judgements, heavy costs and damages, and extremely negative publicity.
Allowing a culture of bullying and harassment to develop unchecked can have the following outcomes:
- damage to morale
- negative impact on individuals, teams and the whole organisation (including those not directly affected)
- poor performance/low productivity
- loss of respect for management
- increased absence and ill health (particularly stress-related)
- more resignations
- poor customer service
- conflict with recognised trade unions
- damage to institution’s reputation
- employment tribunal claims.
Treating dignity at work as a serious issue is likely to have the following benefits.Higher morale and improved performance
- Giving employees a more positive working environment improves morale and has a consequent impact on productivity.
- Relaxed, happier staff are more productive and this relates to the whole workgroup, not just those immediately affected by bullying or harassment issues.
- Bullying and harassment are likely to lead to stress-related illnesses. Effectively tackling these issues is likely to improve sickness absence rates.
- Employees frequently choose not to remain with the organisation when they can resolve their issues by resigning. Research indicates that approximately 50 per cent of those who are targets of bullying and harassment leave the organisation rather than using internal procedures to resolve the situation.
- If staff are treated fairly and well by their employer, they are far more likely to behave in a positive way towards other stakeholders such as students and members of the public.
- Organisations that have an effective strategy to deal with bullying and harassment are far less likely to have constant difficulties with the recognised trade unions. The best institutions are likely to work actively in partnership with the unions to meet their obligations to promote dignity at work, and are usually much more successful in achieving their objectives by operating in this way.
ACAS has produced an advice leaflet: Bullying and harassment at work: a guide for managers and employers.