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Business News 2009
Business News->One third of women bullied at work, says Unison
One third of women bullied at work, says Unison

1 December 2009

Violence against womenOne third of young women are being bullied in the workplace, a recent study has suggested. In addition, 41 per cent of female workers claim they have been bullied at some point in their career, according to research by the public sector trade union Unison. The impact of workplace abuse has also been found to have wider repercussions. The most common instances of bullying found were both mental and physical, with workers complaining of exclusion, intimidation, unrealistic deadlines and excessive monitoring of their performance.

A study by the University of Bradford, conducted for trade union Unite found that stress, anxiety and absenteeism caused by bullying leaves employers with an estimated 100 million lost work days a year and costs the UK economy roughly £13.75 billion. According to Unison, many experts believe that the recession could be to blame for the recent rise in bullying, as "twenty-something women [are] so desperate to hang on to their jobs that they're willing to put up with extreme behaviour from their bosses".

Some of the women interviewed for the study said that bosses would regularly get violent and throw things, with one female worker adding that her boss would "hit her with a ruler when she made mistakes". Hope Daley, head of health and safety at Unison, said that "workplace bullying is a widespread problem".

She added: "Most companies don't have an enforced anti-bullying policy in place. Victims need to be supported and encouraged to report incidents, to show that bullying will not be tolerated."

Unison uncovered many reasons why workers felt they needed to keep quiet, with 19 per cent worried that colleagues would react negatively towards them for raising the issue, and nearly a quarter concerned that speaking up would make the matter worse. More than ten per cent added they feared that reporting these incidents would mean they lost their job. Nearly three-quarters of the women questioned said that bullying had directly affected their mental and physical health, with many saying they had rapidly lost weight or would become upset at the thought of going to work.

But Unison pointed out there are ways in which workplace bullying can be beaten and that women need to be able to use disciplinary and grievance measures to stop harassment.

The Department for Work and Pensions say that bullying in the workplace should not be permitted and that employers should deal with any situations efficiently and quickly. Several methods for beginning a grievance process, such as keeping a written account of instances of abuse and speaking to a trade union representative, are advised by the office , as these will help not only strengthen the complaint but also would be necessary should employees wish to take legal action.

One woman questioned in the union's research said that things did get better when she wrote a formal letter of complaint about her boss. She claimed she was being subjected to mental bullying, and her boss even expected her to "report to her every time I left my desk, even to use the toilet". She added that once the matter had been taken through the grievance process, she and her boss were able to "compromise on certain things and, gradually, build up a working relationship".

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