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Bullying at work

Lobbying your member of parliament for a change in the law

Sample letter for you to adapt and send to your MP
(modify to your own circumstances)

Or you can fax your MP in the UK at

[Your address]

[Your MP]
[Your MP's address]

Dear [MP]

[If you've been bullied out of your job include brief details, for example: After 15 years of loyal service and an excellent work record I was bullied out of my job as a customer services manager in 1993-4. As a direct consequence of the bullying I experienced a stress breakdown in 1994 which terminated my job, career, livelihood, health and marriage. The employer did not acknowledge the bullying and refused to make any entry on the bully's record but instead promoted him. I know that the bully has destroyed other employees. I was unable to take legal action due to the severity of the psychiatric injury and the absence of appropriate legislation. I estimate the actions of the bully and my employer's failure to deal with the bullying cost the taxpayer at least 250,000 in health injury, early retirement, overheads, etc in respect of my case. When I took action against the bully personnel responded by protecting, supporting and promoting him. He carried on bullying for another five years before he was sacked in 1999 after which his empire came crashing down. The department of which he was in charge had a mission to become the world's number one in their field - and they had some of the world's best people - but now consists of a few remnants which will likely be sold to a foreign competitor at a rock-bottom price. The bully's incompetence, and the employer's negligence in failing to recognise and deal with him when alerted, have cost taxpayers, shareholders and investors tens of millions of pounds. No-one will ever be held accountable.]

[Note: remove all emotion, anger, shock, horror, outrage, indignation, and detail, and avoid the use of "double quotes", CAPITAL LETTERS and exclamation marks!!! - all these invoke disbelief in the reader]

I draw your attention to the following:

  1. Surveys repeatedly  reveal that between 10-50% of employees experience bullying which prevents them from fulfilling their duties.
  2. Bullying has nothing to do with managing; bullies are weak, inadequate people who use bullying to try and hide their inadequacy.
  3. Bullying is, in most cases, the tip of an iceberg of wrongdoing, hence the employer's reluctance to take any action.
  4. Employers are often more scared of the bully than the employees and the most common outcome is to get rid of the target and to promote the bully.
  5. The absence of legislation on bullying at work leaves both employees and employers unprotected.
  6. Bullying is the cause of underperformance, not the solution.
  7. Stress is now the number one cause of sickness absence; bullying is a major cause of stress.
  8. The cost of bullying to industry and taxpayers is estimated to at least 12 billion annually. The cost of conflict in the workplace (including harassment, discrimination, violence, legal action, injury to health, insurance, regulatory and legislative bodies, staff turnover etc) could be in excess of 20-30 billion annually. This is equivalent to a hidden tax burden of over 1000 per working adult per year.
  9. Only about 2% of bullying cases make it to employment tribunal due to the inadequacy of UK law in respect of bullying and the absence of provision for compensation for detriment caused by bullying. Only about 0.5% of cases result in compensation for detriment in excess of the legal bill.

I enclose facts and figures on workplace bullying and identify eight areas of failure in existing employment legislation.

I urge you to 

a) support the Dignity at Work Bill (which has twice passed successfully through the House of Lords) and sign Valerie Davey's Early Day Motion
b) include a commitment to legislate against bullying in your election manifesto.

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]

Bullying at work
Those who can, do. Those who can't, bully.

1. Purpose of bullying
The purpose of bullying is to hide inadequacy. Bullying has nothing to do with managing, achievement of tasks, team working, etc. Good managers manage; bad managers bully. It is always the bully who is weak, inadequate, and underperforming. Bullying prevents employees fulfilling their duties.

2. Prevalence of bullying

Date of survey

Survey origin Ratio of employees bullied % of workforce Number of employees bullied Bullied over the period...
Nov 1996 IPD 1 in 8 12 3.5m 5 years
Oct 1998 TUC 1 in 6 18 4.5m 1 year
Feb 2000 UMIST 1 in 4 25 7m 5 years
Apr 2002 Lyn Quine 1 in 3 37 10.5m 1 year
Jan 1999 Lyn Quine 1 in 3 38 10.5m 1 year
Jun 1994 SUBS 1 in 2 53 14m working life

An IPD survey in November 1996 asking "Have you been bullied in the last five years?" suggested 1 in 8 (over 3 million) people are bullied at work.

A TUC/NOP poll in October 1998 suggested 5 million people are bullied at work.

A survey of 70 employers by UMIST published in February 2000 found 1 in 10 employees (2.8 million) had been bullied at work in the last 6 months, with 1 in 4 (7 million) being bullied in the last 5 years.

A survey by University of Kent at Canterbury researcher Lyn Quine of one NHS Community Trust in south east England published in the BMJ on 23 January 1999 found that 38% of nurses reported they had been bullied in the previous 12 months, with considerable impact on health, morale, and intention to leave the job or profession. See survey results online. A survey of junior doctors in 2002 produced a figure of 37%.

A survey by Charlotte Rayner at Staffordshire University Business School in June 1994 asking "Have you been bullied in your working life?" produced a figure of 53% (over 14 million employees).

The largest number of calls to the TUC Bad Bosses Hotline in December 1997 concerned bullying (38%), outstripping low pay (25%), contracts (15%), etc.

A study by the Employment Policy Institute in 1997 found that the number of employees covered by basic employment law has fallen from over 90% twenty years ago to under 70% in 1997.

A 1997 study by research group ISR reported 59% of managers feel insecure at work.

In 2000 there were over 130,000 applications to employment tribunal - every year 1 in every 215 jobs ends in a tribunal.

Each year around 16 children commit suicide because of bullying at school which the responsible adults are failing to deal with.

Each year 5000 adults commit suicide in the UK - the highest rate in Europe. Suicide is the largest killer of males aged 18-24 having taken over from road traffic accidents as the number one cause of death for this age group.

The UK has the longest working hours in Europe.

The UK has the highest rate of separation and divorce in Europe (25% compared to the European average of 14%).

3. UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line

Tim Field's UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line has logged over 6000 cases since January 1996.

20% are from education, mostly secondary school teachers
12% are NHS staff and health care professionals
10% are from social services and caring occupations including care of the elderly and people with special needs
6-8% are from the voluntary and non-profit sector, with small charities (social housing, disadvantaged children, special needs, etc) featuring prominently; this sector has shown the highest rate of increase in calls since 1998
5% are civil servants not included in the above groups

65% of enquiries are from the public sector
30% are from the private sector
5% are from students, retired people, etc

75% of callers are female, probably because females are a) more likely to be willing to admit they are being bullied, and b) more likely to be motivated to do something about it. Over 50% of reported bullies are female

Over 90% of enquiries involve a serial bully. It is the lack of knowledge of, the unwillingness to recognise, or the outright denial of the existence of the serial bully which most often results in an unsatisfactory outcome for both employees and employers.

Those cases which do reach tribunal often take between one and two years to be concluded. It is common for a bullying experience to consume a decade of a person's life.

4. Cost of bullying

5. Further information

Further information on all aspects of bullying at work is available at Bully OnLine at Bully Online

6. Weakness of UK law in respect of bullying

Of over 6000 cases logged by the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, most of which involve an employee having lost or facing loss of job, career, livelihood, health, and often marriage, only around 2% make it to employment tribunal; only around half of these are successful, and of these, only around half win more compensation than their legal bill. The main reason is the inadequacy of UK law in respect of bullying. At present the inadequacy of law prevents bullies and bullying employers being called to account; weak law also fails to protect employers against bullies. When laws are passed prohibiting formerly acceptable behaviours (eg sexual harassment, racial discrimination), the harassers and discriminators do not stop harassing and discriminating; they modify their behaviour and find a way of continuing to harass and discriminate that is not covered by law. Many choose bullying.

1. Whilst there a laws proscribing certain types of discrimination and harassment, there is no law against bullying. Current harassment laws are based on a discriminatory model, ie there must be a focus such as race, gender or disability. Bullies are deeply prejudiced but if a law is enacted prohibiting harassment and discrimination on a particular basis, bullies and harassers invent other outlets for their prejudice and aggression. 

Employment law needs to be upgraded to provide for the right to dignity at work regardless of the prejudicial focus of the bully or harasser; this is provided for in the Dignity at Work Bill

2. Representation in grievance and disciplinary hearings is limited to a union official or fellow employee. In a bullying climate, no fellow employee will dare risk their job in this role, and many unions do not support their members in cases of bullying.

Employees must be able to choose any competent representative to accompany or represent them in grievance and disciplinary hearings

3. The legal position on unfair and constructive dismissal needs to be brought into line with harassment and discrimination law by:

abolishing the 1-year qualifying period for unfair or constructive dismissal
removing need to have to resign in order to take legal action
removing the 50K cap on compensation

4. Those who win the biggest awards are those who least need them.

Compensation should be linked to detriment not to earning ability

5. The employment tribunal 12-week application time limit prevents those people suffering psychiatric injury (eg PTSD) from presenting their case.

The 12-week time limit for tribunal application needs to be waived when the employee has suffered psychiatric injury.

6. At present it is possible for a tribunal chairperson to misuse the pre-trial hearing by imposing a costs warning as a means of dissuading applicants from bringing their case.

The pre-trial hearing and imposition of costs warning needs to be modified such that a costs warning cannot be misused.

7. Some employees can legally be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Employers must be prevented from discriminating against those of different sexual orientation, eg gays and lesbians.

8. In psychiatric injury personal injury cases, the defence tactic is to comb through applicant's life history and press into service any innocuous event and claim this is the cause of psychiatric injury.

As in rape cases, the defence should be limited to examination of the cause of current psychiatric injury.


Bully OnLine site map

Profile of the serial bully

Facts, figures, costs and surveys on workplace bullying

Typical cost of a serial bully in the workplace

Statistics from the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line

Where now?
Lots of information and ideas for tackling bullying including the legal aspects
Action Home Page | Action to tackle bullying
Guidance for employers on policy development
Bullying and the trade unions | Bullying and the law
Case law on bullying, harassment, stress and personal injury
Court judgements in cases relevant to bullying
Long v. Mercury Mobile Communications Services
Hatton Barber et al: 16 practical propositions for a personal injury case
Right to be accompanied | The need for risk assessment
High Court injunction to prevent unfair dismissal | Obstruction to justice
Bullyonline action forum for validation and re-empowerment
UK Dignity at Work Bill | Swedish law on Victimization at Work
Bullying and human rights | Waters v. London Metropolitan Police
Barber v. Somerset County Council
Zimmerman: retaliation in the US courts
Bullying history: books, articles and publications since 1992
How to lobby your MP: example letter and summary of inadequacy of UK law
Amicus Campaign Against Bullying At Work (CABAW)
Tim Field's written submission to the Dignity at Work Bill debate
Getting another job after bullying | How to recover from bullying
Setting up a bullying survivor support group | Sample support group constitution
Using the search engines to find other sites on bullying etc
Dealing with viruses, worms, spam etc
Designing and building your own web site
Advice and guidance for new Internet users
Tim Field's book Bully in sight validates the experience of bullying and
defines the injury to health caused by bullying and harassment

Home Pages
The Field Foundation | Bully OnLine
Workplace bullying | School bullying | Family bullying
Bullying news | Press and media centre
Bullying case histories | Bullying resources
Stress and PTSD
Action to tackle bullying | Related issues

Success Unlimited
Books on bullying and psychiatric injury