Half the population are bullied ... most only recognise it when they read this
News from the world of bullying in 2001
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School racial harassment case
10 December 2001: former in-house parent Aliya Smethurst has been successful in her action against Sidcot, a Quaker school at Burnham-on-Sea. During her year at the school Mrs Smethurst, who is from Pakistan, was the target of racist comments which included "niggers are not welcome in Somerset pubs". When Mrs Smethurst raised issues of racial harassment and discrimination with her manager, he responded with ineffectual flippant remarks. Her concerns about racist bullying among pupils were also ignored. After hearing only one day of evidence the chairman of the Bristol employment tribunal advised the school to settle or face a "devastating judgement". The terms of Mrs Smethurst's settlement were not disclosed although she received a letter of apology from the school. [More]
Harassment targets lose
10 December 2001: targets of harassment almost always end up losing their job whatever they do, according to recent research published by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). "Sexual harassment makes people's lives a misery, affects their confidence and their health as well as their performance at work," said the commission's deputy chairwoman, Jenny Watson. [Full story]
Employers solicitors Eversheds
accused of bullying
3 December 2001: employers' solicitors Eversheds is being sued for £100,000 by former credit control manager Margaret Henderson who alleges she was prevented from doing her job by bullying at the Newcastle office. This is the second claim arising out of Eversheds' in Newcastle within a year. Richeal Maclaverty resigned in 1999 and is in the process of taking her former boss, head of employment Simon Loy, to employment tribunal.
Unison leadership supports union bully
3 December 2001: as in the majority of cases of workplace bullying reported to the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, Unison management have backed Welsh secretary Derek Gregory. The Society of Union Employees (SUE) has also defended Mr Gregory saying he had been denied "natural justice" in the court action. No mention was made of the breach of natural justice against Mrs Pugh for the bullying and harassing she endured on a daily basis for six years. It was Mr Gregory, with his assistant Beverley Cole, whose behaviour led to an award of £90,000 for former Unison secretary Joy Pugh recently. An employment tribunal is outstanding. Of all the Advice Line callers and enquirers to Bully OnLine that are in a union, Unison (along with the NUT) is the most regularly criticised union for failing to support their members in dealing with bullying, for being obstructive, and for colluding with management to prevent a bullying case being resolved.
CBI warns on sick leave culture
27 November 2001: deputy director general of the CBI John Cridland has criticised GPs and the healthcare system for unnecessarily extending the length of sick leave taken by employees. Unfortunately, Mr Cridland makes no mention of the reasons why so many people are forced to take sick leave: prolonged negative stress caused by bullying, harassment, undue pressure, poor work scheduling, excessive demands, bad management, etc. According to CBI research, sickness absence and welfare payments cost UK plc around £23 billion a year. Stress is now the number one cause of sickness absence, although at least 20% of employers refuse to see stress as a health and safety issue but instead as a skiving and malingering issue. Stress (prolonged negative stress) is not the employee's inability to cope with excessive demands but a consequence of the employer's failure to provide a safe system of work as required by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
27 November 2001: a study by Proudfoot Consulting reveals that bad management, low employee morale and poorly-trained staff cost British business 117 lost working days a year. Bad management accounted for the biggest slice of unproductive days (65%), with low morale accounting for 17%. The study also suggested that in the UK 52% of all working time is spent unproductively compared to the European average of 43%.
27 November 2001: Consignia, the new name for the Post Office, is set to shed 15,000 jobs to stem losses of £10 million a week. Peter Carr, chairman of Post Office consumer watchdog, Postwatch, said that increasing labour costs, poor industrial relations and unimaginative leadership meant that change at the top was the only solution. He added, "Postmen [and postwomen] are generally not militant people - they're proud of the job they do and they want to give good service to the public but they are not always treated as they should be by their employer". Since 1996 postal workers have featured regularly amongst Advice Line callers and enquirers to Bully OnLine.
Kamlesh Bahl case rumbles on
27 November 2001: former Law Society vice-president Kamlesh Bahl has lodged an appeal against the tribunal finding that she lied under oath (see below) and that she was not a reliable witness.
Lords decision favours employers
24 November 2001: a decision by the House of Lords in Chief Constable of West Yorkshire v. Khan affirms the legal right of the employer to treat less favourably any employee who is starting legal proceedings for discrimination and harassment. The decision was based on the assumption that a "fair" and "reasonable" employer is entitled to protect itself against legal action and in doing so is creating a new relationship with the litigating employee which may lead to that employee being treated less favourably than other non-litigating employees. However, if harassment and discrimination have taken place and the employer has failed to prevent, recognise and deal with them, then the employer is unlikely to be "fair" and "reasonable".
Government makes bullying claims
even harder to pursue
23 November 2001: the UK government, worried about the rising number of tribunal applications, is about to introduce a bill which will force employees to follow grievance procedures regardless of their suitability or applicability. Tribunals will have the power to penalise any employee who fails to pursue the grievance procedure. As anyone familiar with bullying knows, grievance procedures are inappropriate for dealing with bullying (click here to see why). To reduce the number of applications to tribunal the government should be asking why so many employees are forced to go down the tribunal route.
Parents rights strengthened
19 November 2001: a tribunal in Taunton, Somerset, England, has ruled that working mothers have the legal right to refuse to work inconvenient shifts and that to deny this right is a breach of the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. Single parent and former police constable Michelle Chew from Taunton won an appeal against Avon and Somerset Police after they refused her request to work the same days each week so that her children could attend nursery. [Full story]
An end to executive cloning
8 November 2001: delegates to the CIPD annual conference in Harrogate last month heard calls for an end to executive cloning. "Leadership should be focused on people, not on technology or finance", argued Michael West, head of organisational studies at Aston Business School. Speakers said that the UK must find better leaders if business performance is to be boosted and workplace stress is to be overcome.
Unison employee wins case against
7 November 2001: former secretary Joy Pugh was awarded £90,000 damages at Swansea County Court for bullying and harassment by her boss, the Unison Welsh regional secretary Derek Gregory. Over a six-year period Ms Pugh endured persistent rudeness, shouting, exaggeration of alleged faults, and attempts to engineer mistakes. Mr Gregory's assistant Beverley Cole was also accused of bullying. The repeated bullying and harassment resulted in Ms Pugh suffering panic attacks, depression, sleepless nights, loss of libido and loss of self-confidence. [Full story]
This is one of a number of cases of the public sector union Unison being taken to employment tribunal for bullying. It may also explain why, on the UK National Workplace Bullying Advice Line, Unison is one of the most frequently reported unions failing to support its members in bullying cases.
Scottish NHS bullying running at
5 November 2001: a confidential survey by Grampian University Hospitals Trust reported in The Scotsman reveals that nearly 50% of staff working for a leading hospitals trust have been bullied at work. "Undue pressure to produce work" was the largest single cause of bullying. This figure of 1 in 2 echoes Charlotte Rayner's seminal survey from Staffordshire University Business School in June 1994. [More]
Burden of proof now on
12 October 2001: following implementation of the Burden of Proof Directive in UK legislation today, the burden of proof in claims of sex discrimination now lies with the employer rather than with the employee. Where an employee can prove the facts of their case at tribunal, the complaint will be upheld unless the employer can prove that they did not commit the act. [More]
Not happy at work
12 October 2001: the results of a three-year survey of British workers by the Gallup Organization has revealed that many employers are not getting the best from their employees. The most common response to questions such as "how engaged are your employees?" and "how effective is your leadership and management style?" and "how well are you capitalising on the talents, skills and knowledge of your people?" was an overwhelming "not very much". The survey also found that the longer an employee stayed, the less engaged they became. The cost to UK plc of lost work days due to lack of engagement was estimated to be between £39-48 billion a year.
Another teacher bullying case
11 October 2001: primary school teacher Christine Browell has gained a £100,000 out-of-court settlement against Northumberland County Council after they failed to deal with claims of bullying by the former head teacher of Mowbray First School in Guidepost, near Choppington, Northumberland. The council refused to admit liability, claiming she did not use formal grievance procedures to make her complaint that the head had harangued her in public. However, grievance procedures are inadequate in bullying cases, especially where the bully is the person to whom one would normally take the grievance.
Postal manager sacked
for tackling racism
8 October 2001: a tribunal has ruled in favour of Ian Holt, a Worcester postal delivery office manager who spoke out against racist comments made against three black postal workers. Mr Holt was subsequently victimised and then dismissed on trumped-up charges by office manager at the time, Eddie Marriot. [Full story]
5 October 2001: after complaints from over 50 members of staff including many students, a major investigation into bullying and harassment in the maternity unit at St Mary's Hospital in Portsmouth has resulted in the dismissal of two midwives and the disciplining of seven other members of staff. [Full story]
Revised and updated PTSD book republished
MSF calls on government to outlaw
resolution on bullying and harassment at the workplace
16 July 2001: the European Parliament is taking notice of bullying in the workplace ... see the Parliament's Report on harassment at the workplace by the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs.
Lord Griffith's team, which included two Employment Appeal Tribunal members, concluded that Ms Bahl had bullied, treated staff without consideration, demanded immediate responses, put her needs first, and resorted to demeaning, humiliating behaviour and been offensively aggressive. She "...usurped the secretary general's role as head of staff and introduced an atmosphere of fear and confusion". The MSF union demanded that as with other employees she be charged with gross professional misconduct and dismissed. Ms Bahl's response to having been held to account was to suddenly claim discrimination and harassment although she had made no mention of this prior to being found guilty. Allegations of bullying and harassment were made against Ms Bahl when head of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
New HSE guidelines on
22 June 2001: new best-practice guidelines on how to minimise stress in the workplace have been published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Under the guidelines, employers must:
Stress vies with back pain (also a symptom of stress) as the most common work-related illness, resulting in 6.5 million lost working days annually in the UK.Bullycide: death at playtime published in e-format
Memorial to executed PTSD sufferers to
16 June 2001: a statue commemorating the 306 British and Commonwealth soldiers executed for alleged acts of cowardice and desertion during World War One will be unveiled at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, near Lichfield, Staffordshire on Thursday 21 June 2001. In truth, most (maybe all) were suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but were, in one of the most shameful acts of genocide committed by the British Army, executed on the orders of General "Butcher" Haig as a warning to the others. This special occasion will, hopefully, see the largest gathering of relatives and supporters of those soldiers. Relatives continue to endure the stigma of the executions and some of whom have only recently discovered the fate of these men who volunteered to serve King and country. The Arboretum will be open from 10am with events taking place throughout the day; the dedication of the memorial will take place at 2pm. A number of WW1 veterans will honour the occasion, as will Royal Engineers, members of the Salvation Army and Scottish Pipers. Performances of a short play based on the case of Private Troughton (Royal Welsh Fusiliers, shot for alleged desertion aged 22, on 22 April 1915) are planned and other information will be available in the Visitor Centre. A white dove symbolising a spirit of peace and reconciliation is be released. Information and pictures: www.shotatdawn.org and www.clarkehome58.freeserve.co.uk
In the Gulf War McVeigh realised that war is not black and white and that Iraqis (some of which he killed) are like Americans. Feeling disillusioned and betrayed by the federal government he formerly trusted, the killing of 80 people including 70 children at Waco, Texas, became a focal point in his mind. The federal government was now the ultimate bully. Oklahoma was his revenge. Resigned to his death, Timothy McVeigh departed the world highlighting in the most public way possible the duplicity and hypocrisy he claimed to be fighting: he was judicially murdered for the indiscriminate killing of men, women and children in Oklahoma but those responsible for the killings at Waco and Ruby Ridge, despite their identities being known, have never been charged.
1 June 2001: due to overwhelming demand the current edition of David Kinchin's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury is sold out. David has revised the text to take account of developments over the last couple of years and a revised edition will be available in July. Contact Success Unlimited if you'd like to notified as soon as the new version is available.
One teacher recently described an OFSTED inspection as "the most humiliating and degrading experience of my working life" and is now busy planning to leave the profession. As with nursing, the UK has a net drain of teachers with more leaving than joining. The government's response is to fly in teachers at great expense from distant parts of the world. Mr Tomlinson has overlooked OFSTED's role in turning teaching from one of the most respected jobs into one of the least desirable professions, and the number of suicides linked to the stress of OFSTED inspection. For the real picture of teaching in the UK click here.New employment tribunal rules
Bullying email reduces company
share value by 22%
6 April 2001: the world is beginning to recognise the negative effect of bullying. Shares in Cerner Corporation nose-dived 22% after an abusive email, sent to managers by Neal L Patterson, head of the company, was posted on a Yahoo financial message board. Click here for full story.
for damaged feelings and reputation
22 March 2001: in Johnson v. Unisys the Law Lords have decreed that they see "no reason why, in an appropriate case, it [the amount of compensation] should not include compensation for distress, humiliation, damage to their reputation in the community or to family life". This is the first time a judgement has indicated that unfair dismissal claimants might be compensated at tribunal for injury to feelings. At present there is a £51,700 ceiling on awards for unfair dismissal which cannot be breached, and the average award of a couple of thousand pounds is only for loss of earnings until the applicant finds, or the tribunal believes s/he should have found, a new job. This is in sharp contrast to harassment and discrimination claims on which compensation is theoretically unlimited.
Richard Lister, of Lewis Silkin, added that if "someone has been frog-marched out of the office in front of their colleagues they could argue that this damaged their reputation and seek appropriate compensation. If someone had been through a dismissal that was so traumatic that it brought on a stress-related illness and they had medical evidence, they could get a very significant award."
Bully in sight sells 5000th copy
22 March 2001: my book Bully in sight: how to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying has now sold over 5000 copies. A third reprint is planned.
Foley v. Middlesex
20 March 2001: the breach of duty of care case of Foley v. Middlesex University has been settled with the University paying the claimant £40,000 plus expenses.
9 March 2001: former maths department head Alan Barber has been awarded £100,000 damages for stress suffered whilst at East Bridgewater School in Somerset. The court heard how Mr Barber suffered depression following "brusque, autocratic and bullying" behaviour of head teacher Margaret Hayward. A restructuring exercise meant that Mr Barber's workload increased but resources were withdrawn. Despite being alerted, the school responded unsympathetically and did nothing to alleviate the situation. Somerset County Council plan to appeal.
Another big PC
6 March 2001: former PC Angela Vento has been awarded £257,844 compensation after she endured years of bullying and harassment by senior officers in West Yorkshire Police. Ms Vento, who won an employment tribunal for sexual harassment and discrimination in 1999, claimed she was "grilled, roasted and reduced to tears" by senior officers at Bradford central police station. Eventually she was dismissed in December 1997 following allegations of "poor performance and a lack of honesty". As with most cases of bullying, Ms Vento's confidence was so undermined that she could not cope with the simplest of tasks. Compensation was awarded for injuries to feelings, aggravated damages and the psychological damage she had suffered at the hands of superiors. She also received an apology from Phillip Brear, Deputy Chief Constable.
GMTV bullying case settled
5 March 2001: GMTV wardrobe assistant Olivia Nurrish has been awarded £15,200 for constructive dismissal following a spate of false allegations by her supervisor, Hilary Simon. Ms Simon regularly criticised Ms Nurrish's performance, constantly undermined her position, and speciously claimed that presenters Eamonn Holmes and Fiona Phillips were dissatisfied with her performance. During meetings to resolve the dispute, Hilary Simon lost her temper and reduced Ms Nurrish to tears. The appointed mediator made matters worse.
Ms Nurrish was supported in her case by presenters Lorraine Kelly, Eamonn Holmes and John Stapleton who provided excellent references on her behalf including "extremely good at her job" and "a delightful, calm, soothing personality". The presenters also informed Rhian Jones, head of GMTV human resources, of their unease with the claims being made, but no appropriate action was taken. GMTV offered Ms Nurrish £500 in compensation but the tribunal awarded her £15,200 in unanimous recognition that she had been unfairly treated whilst GMTV human resources had neither grasped nor dealt with the issue. Ms Nurrish, from Weymouth, Dorset, said: " I loved my job at GMTV. I felt so destroyed by the whole experience."
Teachers stressed worldwide
March 2001: since 1996 almost 1,000 teachers and principals in the state of Victoria, Australia, have received £12.5 million (A$34 million) in compensation for stress and injury to health caused mostly by excessive workloads, abuse, lack of support and recognition, and having to deal with difficult students. In Canada, stress and burnout are reaching epidemic proportions amongst teachers following a decade of reform which has included increasing paperwork, additional curriculum, unruly pupils, lack of resources, and the dumping of special needs children in mainstream education without adequate support and resources.
Oz teachers as stressed as UK teachers
March 2001: since 1996 almost 1,000 teachers and principals in the state of Victoria, Australia, have received £12.5 million (A$34 million) in compensation for stress and injury to health caused mostly by excessive workloads, abuse, lack of support and recognition, and having to deal with difficult students.
David Kinchin publishes new book
27 February 2001: David Kinchin, author of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: the invisible injury, has teamed up with Erica Brown (Head of Research and Development at the International Education and Training Centre, Acorns Children's Hospice Trust, Birmingham) to produce a new book, Supporting children with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, A practical guide for teacher and professionals.
Basildon College principal resigns
27 February 2001: Basildon College principal Chris Chapman has resigned after an investigation by the Further Education Funding Council. The FEFC report, which was the third worst ever college inspection report, found a culture of bullying, harassment and fear which included blaming staff, unwarranted threats of disciplinary action, and coercion to work excessive hours. The investigation, which also found that the bullying was not confined to the principal, was prompted by over 50 complaints from managers and lecturers. Whilst NATFHE expressed satisfaction at the vindication of their claims, their members were outraged that no disciplinary action had been taken against those responsible for the culture of bullying. Full story in The Guardian.
Head told to quit
27 February 2001: headmaster and dean of Westminster Abbey's choir school Roger Overend has been ordered by the school's governors to resign or face the sack after a number of allegations of bullying stretching back over three years. Full story in The Guardian. This is not the first time Roger Overend has come under scrutiny ... click here.
Growing recognition of psychopathic
24 February 2001: two good pieces of news just in about recognising psychopaths. University of Sydney psychologist John Clarke is running a series of seminars teaching employers how to recognise psychopathic employees. Clarke, a psychopath profile, estimates that up to 5% of the population are psychopaths. He adds, "These people have the same psychological make-up as killers. Their only difference is that they have the ability to hide their psychopathic tendencies behind the front of a respectable, white-collar job. Not all of them will resort to such drastic measures as ripping off the company, threatening staff or even murdering someone. But a number of them are ticking time-bombs waiting to go off."
Hilary Freeman is writing an article on psychopaths in the workplace for Rise, the graduate section of The Guardian. Her article is scheduled to appear on Saturday 10 March 2001.
Samson had antisocial personality
15 February 2001: Dr Eric Altschuler of the University of California, in San Diego, believes that Samson of Biblical fame was in fact suffering from Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD or ASPD). Describing Samson as "a bit of a thug" in a report in New Scientist, Dr Altschuler thinks Samson may be the earliest recorded incidence of ASPD. Samson's unwillingness to conform to social norms, propensity for violence, recklessness, disregard for personal safety combined with deceitfulness and lack of remorse are hallmarks of individuals suffering Antisocial Personality Disorder.
defence forces lectured on bullying
5 February 2001: in an unprecedented move, Australian defence forces were stood down for two hours today to hear a lecture on bullying, or anti-bastardisation as the locals call it. Not ones for mincing their words, the Aussies. The move follows allegations of harassment, illegal punishments and violent initiation ceremonies, especially in the elite parachute battalion. More news at BBC News Online.
Bullied Army soldier
3 February 2001: soldier Alex Chester, 19, has claimed that his drunken rage in which he smashed a window in the Dragoon pub in Maidstone, Kent, was the culmination of bullying by his colleagues. In his defence, Fiona Green told magistrates that Mr Chester had "suffered extensive physical and mental abuse since joining the Parachute Regiment at the age of 17 which included a broken cheek and nose, being head-butted, gagged and having a plastic bag put over his head.
Council boss forced to resign again
2 February 2001: chief executive of Eastbourne Council Sari Conway resigned just hours before a meeting to decide if she bullied senior male colleagues. Ms Conway received a £250,000 payout from a Yorkshire council in 1994; having been accused on bullying, she launched a tribunal case after she was asked to leave her post as director of education. Defending her "aggressive management style", Ms Conway conceded that changes she had tried to usher in may have made others feel "vulnerable".
UKAEA stress settlement
January 2001: the IPMS has negotiated a six-figure settlement for one of their members formerly employed at the UK Atomic Energy Athority plant in Dounreay. The employee retired nine years ago at a time when the UKAEA was going through major change as it was split into two parts, AEA Technology and UKAEA.
New book from Success Unlimited
30 January 2001: today sees the publication of Neil Marr and Tim Field's new book Bullycide: death at playtime which exposes the epidemic of children who commit suicide because of bullying at school.
Bully OnLine reorganised
30 January 2001: to coincide with the publication of Bullycide: death at playtime, Bully OnLine has been reorganised into separate areas each with their own Home Page. If you encounter problems with missing pages please contact me.
GMB official in bullying row gets
24 January 2001: a union officer who was at the centre of allegations of sex discrimination and bullying has left the GMB with a £100,000 payoff. Ken Gregory was regional secretary for the GMB Union in Birmingham. See report in The Independent.
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