For the last few years, we’ve looked at the results from the annual NHS staff survey to see how the sector has been performing in the areas of bullying, harassment and speaking up, and if they have been improving over time. Well, it’s that time of year again, and the 2018 results are in. It’s important to note that the themes that came up in this years survey results don’t just apply to the NHS and healthcare sector – they apply to so many more. So, we wanted to take a look at some of the big sectors out there, and see how the stats from the NHS measured up to those in the Charity, Retail, Legal and Government sectors.
Discrimination was a key issue in this years NHS staff survey results, reported at exceptionally high levels (10%) by several different minority groups, in particular black staff, Muslim staff, disabled staff and non-heterosexual staff. This has a significant knock-on effect in patient care, since patients who perceive unequal treatment of staff due to ethnic background, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability or age are likely to have a significantly lower patient satisfaction rates. Among employees, there seems to be a distinct undercurrent of discrimination across the board.
Any discrimination within the workplace is certainly a negative, but some industries seem to suffer it more than others. For example, over 80% of women in the charity sector think that gender discrimination is present in their workplace, while 48% have experienced it directly. This can be something as simple as an ambitious woman being described as ‘pushy’ when displaying the same behaviour as an ambitious man, to a refusal to promote women above men. Research into discrimination in the charities sector results also show a rise in discrimination based on age, skills and ethnicity.
Bullying & Harassment
In the NHS Staff Survey results, one of the major concerns is around harassment, bullying and abuse in the workplace. Nearly 25% of staff report still experiencing some form of harassment, bullying or abuse in the workplace over the last 12 months, and 19.1% stating it came from a colleague, not a patient. This isn’t much of an improvement on last year’s results, which were also at 25%, but without patient harassment in the mix.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be limited to the NHS. Corporate firms across the country are being pulled up on their harassment culture, with Lloyds currently in the spotlight. Employees have been speaking out over the last week on the deep-seated culture of sexual harassment in the company, encompassing the full range of offences from inappropriate remarks to unwanted touching and sexual assault. One employee described working at the firm as a ‘meat market’, with harassment going as high as senior managers, backed up by an established culture of sexism.
Then there is the case of Ted Baker, whose boss Ray Kevin has been making headlines for his ‘forced hugging’ of employees, making sexual innuendos at staff and even stroking female employees necks. In amongst the allegations of sexual harassment are some of physical violence as well, including ‘shoving’ a senior executive against a wall because he wasn’t invited to their wedding. This fostered such a culture of harassment and sexual inappropriateness at Ted Baker that the employees actually created a petition to make themselves heard, and Ray Kevin has since been investigated and fired.
Of course, banking and retail aren’t the only sectors with this problem – in fact it’s not even limited to the UK. Studies in America have shown that over 81% of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace at least once, if not multiple times. So this is clearly an issue that still needs to be tackled across the globe.
Violence in the workplace is never a positive thing, and the aim of all organisations should be to eliminate it completely. Within the NHS, the number of staff reporting that they have experienced physical violence from patients, relatives and members of the public is still hovering at the 14.5% mark on average, but getting as high as 30% in some places– highlighting it as a real problem that needs to be addressed. However, the number of staff reporting physical violence from other staff members within the last month is low – just 1% in some areas, and rising no higher than 4% across the UK.
The healthcare sector in general (including care homes, hospitals and pharmacies) faces the highest levels of work-related violence, closely followed by workers in Education (12%), Hospitality and Leisure (11%), Retail (9%) and Manufacturing (6%). Potentially as many as 870,000 medical and health workers, 470,000 workers in education and 430,000 workers in the hospitality and leisure industry could have experienced violence while carrying out their jobs.
Speaking up and reporting
So, how do we tackle the issues that are still so prevalent in our workplaces, like discrimination, bullying, violence or harassment? Putting guidance and policies in place and taking appropriate action against those who commit it is a good start, but the main problem is that often employees won’t report experiencing these things. They are scared of repercussions, or being targeted again or worse, of nothing changing. That’s why opening up a dialogue is so important. An independent platform that allows employees to report issues to management on a completely anonymous basis, opening up communications and helping employees feel safer when disclosing sensitive information. Meaning any member of staff can easily and anonymously discuss concerns, problems or ideas, and management can take action in areas that otherwise might have gone unnoticed – before it’s too late.