Date Weds 15 June 2011
UNISON bullying survey reveals real impact of cuts
The shock findings of a UK-wide UNISON survey shows that almost
one in three Scottish workers have been bullied, or witnessed
bullying, over the past six months.
The union is warning that UK Government cuts are fuelling workplace
bullying and silencing workers fearful of their jobs.
One in four workers across the UK say that staff cutbacks have
led to workplace bullying - double the number from two years
ago - and around half say they would be too scared to raise
concerns during the period of cuts.
The UK’s largest union is predicting that the amount of workplace
bullying will rocket further, as the cuts really start to bite.
Findings from the survey of more than 6,000 staff reveal that
one in three employees are being bullied at work across the
UK, with many more witnessing it.
London had the highest number of workers, who had been bullied,
or witnessed bullying - at 83%. The survey of Scottish workers
showed 31% have been bullied in the last six months, with another
28% witnessed it.
The impact on the health of staff is revealed, as the bullied
workers say it has led to mental stress, anxiety, anger and
lowered motivation. However, more than half say they will stay
in their jobs and suffer in silence - compared to only a quarter
of staff in 2009.
Dave Prentis, UNISON’s General Secretary, said: “Workers are
stuck in a living hell, as they are faced with a double whammy
of cuts and bullying.
“Our results show that bosses are failing to clamp down on
workplace bullying and staff are too scared to raise concerns
in the current climate of staff and job cuts. There is more
pressure than ever from management and the levels of stress
“The survey shows that in the last six months the UK Government’s
cuts agenda is hitting people hard. We fear that bullying will
only continue to rise, as the cuts bite further, leading to
long-term mental and physical health problems. Staff will be
unable to carry out their jobs and will be pushed into taking
sickness absence, so it makes economic sense for employers to
clamp down hard on the bullies.
“This survey goes a long way to dispel the myth the UK Government
is currently peddling, that there is no need for health and
safety legislation. We need legislation to put a stop to millions
of workers suffering in silence.
“The Government must rethink its savage cuts agenda, or see
workers’ health and efficiency deteriorate. It is more important
than ever that workers join a union, as this may be their only
point of call for help.”
Notes to editors
Survey results The survey was carried out by the Centre
for Organisation Research and Development (CORD) at Portsmouth
Business School during May 2011.
Staff bullied in the last six months (as the cuts started to
set in) - 35% of all respondents. 27% of all respondents have
witnessed bullying during that period – a total of 62%.
Regional breakdown Scotland – 31% have been bullied in the
last six months, another 28% witnessed it.
London - 48% have been bullied in the last six months, another
35% had witnessed it.
North West – 38% have been bullied in the last six months,
another 33% witnessed it.
West Midlands – 38% have been bullied in the last six months,
another 33% have witnessed it.
South East – 37% have been bullied in the last six months,
another 25% witnessed it.
Northern – 36% have been bullied in the last six months, another
29% witnessed it.
Yorkshire and Humberside – 34% bullied in last six months,
another 26% witnessed it.
South West – 34% have been bullied in the last six months,
another 24% have witnessed it.
East Midlands – 33% have been bullied in last six months, another
24% witnessed it.
Eastern -32% have been bullied in the last six months, another
26% witnessed it.
Wales – 29% have been bullied in last six months, another 27%
The highest sector groups for bullying 36% of local government
workers 32% of higher education workers 33% of further education
workers 31% of police staff 35% of school staff
Issues raised in the survey A quarter of the number
of bullied workers say the bullying coincided with staff cutbacks
(26.8%) - this has doubled in two years.
28% say it was because of a change in line manager, 18% say
it was a change in senior line manager and 21% say it came as
a result of a recent change in job.
23% say it was because new employees are coming into the section.
Eight out of ten workers reveal they will have to do more for
the same money in the face of budget cuts.
More than a quarter (27%) say their manager has been tougher
on them since the cuts set in.
More than a quarter (27%) have seen or experienced more bullying
since the cuts set in.
Around half (49%) say they are less likely to voice disagreement
in the period of cuts.
Around half (49%) believe their organisation has a clear understanding
of what bullying is.
Only 39% are confident their organisation will take cases of
74% of those bullied say the person responsible was at a higher
Most common behaviours – rude and disrespectful behaviour,
being set unrealistic targets, isolation/exclusion, excessive
work monitoring and criticism, withholding information and intimidation.
The top reactions of workers who had been bullied were anger,
lowered motivation, feeling undermined, anxiety or mental stress,
powerlessness and isolation. 61% of the bullied are concerned
about taking action, as they are worried they will be labelled
as a trouble maker.
Workers were also worried that taking action would harm their
reputation, and that colleagues would act negatively. 43% of
the bullied workers have looked for another job with the employer.
58% of the bullied workers have considered leaving their jobs,
53% have considered staying in their job and doing nothing about
the bullying and 23% have considered legal action.
In 2009, 25% said they would stay in their job and do nothing.
Of the 27%, who have witnessed bullying at work in the last
six months - 47% did something directly to help the bullying
stop, 23% were worried about becoming a target themselves, 18%
say fears for their job security hindered their helping, 30%
say it lowered commitment to their manager and 40% say it lowered
commitment to their organisation. 99% did not think the bullying
For more information contact Trisha Hamilton, Communications
Officer for UNISON Scotland, on 0141 342 2877 or 07939 478 461.
For more information on UNISON visit our website www.unison-scotland.org.uk