Archive for December 10, 2015

How homophobic bullying costs engineering industry £11bn [YorkshirePost, by Kate Proctor, 08/12/2015]

BILLIONS of pounds is lost from the engineering sector every year due to homophobia and outdated attitudes, new research has shown.

The macho culture of some firms forces people to remain ‘in the closet’ over their sexuality and a lack of ease in the workplace has been a barrier to career progression.

Bullying and pressure on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers means £11.2bn fails to materialise within the engineering economy a year due to lack of productivity and people feeling locked out of the industry.

The investigation commissioned by ex-mechanical engineer and Yorkshire MP Alec Shelbrooke and authored by Dr Mark McBride-Wright aims to show how the industry can make significant changes.

They would like to see all engineering firms adopting diversity and inclusion policies and ensure that boards are taking the issue seroiusly.

Mr Shelbrooke, Conservative MP for Elmet and Rothwell, said: “This report not only highlights the prevalence of homophobia in the engineering industry, but also lays out a proactive approach for the sector to tackle this issue head-on.”

He said that while homophobia within the construction industry is well documented, little is known about its place within engineering, despite 5.4m people employed in the sector across the UK.

Only 46 per cent of gay engineers surveyed said they would be comfortable being out about their sexuality in the workplace, and 53 per cent said that they were not open about their sexuality at work, or were ‘closeted’.

The international nature of engineering work means that many also have to struggle with homophobic laws abroad, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.

The survey also showed that 33% of gay engineers said they felt their sexuality had acted as a barrier to career progression.

One of those interviewed as part of the research said: “I personally have experienced very substantial evidence of homophobic culture in the laddish environment of civil engineering offices, and would certainly not have dared come out before retirement.”

Former Chief Executive of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley, who is backing the report, said: “As a graduate trainee engineer at BP in the 1960s, it was immediately obvious to me that being gay in business, and most definitely in the oil business, was unacceptable. Even as chief executive of BP in the 21st century, I was worried coming out of the closet would damage critical business relationships.

“Hiding my sexuality made me deeply unhappy, and I was a more reserved leader.”

“It shows that when people are not comfortable bringing their whole selves to work they do not engage and productivity suffers as a result.”

Engineering firms and the Government are now being called-to-arms to address inclusion, as so far only employers BP, EDF Energy, and the Armed Forces feature in the leading LGBT rights charity Stonewall’s 2015 Workplace Equality Index.

Recommendations include establishing a diversity and inclusion policy, flexible policies for those working overseas and training in unconscious bias.

Dr McBride-Wright, who works for industry LGBT network group InterEngineering, said: “Progress and acceptance within the workplace for those in the LGBT community is hindered by homophobic, biphobic and transphobic language, both in the office and on site.

“For example, using ‘gay’ as an expression denoting something negative. I have experienced this. It may be casual banter for some, but for me it resonates with childhood bullying and must be challenged and stopped.”

Mr Shelbrooke added: “The basis of this report is to recommend that homophobic attitudes can be transformed through proactive, educational teamwork and leadership.

“Companies that have adopted such an approach have seen up to a 30% increase in productivity from openly LGBT employees as a direct result of a happier and more cohesive workplace.”

Q&A: Time to take the workplace bully to task [FT Adviser, by Peter Done, 03/12/2015]

Q: I have received reports that one of my employees has experienced bullying in the workplace. While I have not witnessed this personally, I want to ensure the situation is dealt with appropriately. Please could you advise on the correct protocols to follow?

A: It is fundamental that employers are aware of how to deal with allegations of bullying effectively in order to avoid negative consequences. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service has recently published figures that show they have received 20,000 calls from employees who are experiencing bullying at work therefore it appears a prevalent current issue.

It may be possible for allegations of bullying to be resolved informally. You should approach the employee with a sympathetic ear and ask generally if everything is okay. If they are not forthcoming with information about the bullying, you can introduce it to the conversation by telling them that there are routes available through which any problems they have can be addressed, and that they should not suffer in silence. If they feel able, they maybe able to stop the bullying behaviour themselves by speaking directly to the individuals, or they may require assistance from other workplace personnel. Some individuals may be unaware that their behaviour is causing offence to others and once informed any ill behaviour may stop.

If the employee would like the situation to be dealt with through a more formal route, or the informal route has not been successful, or is not deemed appropriate, then more formal procedures should be implemented using the organisation’s grievance procedure or personal harassment procedure. This will include holding a formal meeting with the employee so that you can gain much more detailed information about the alleged bullying, including names, dates and any witnesses present.

You will then need to undertake a thorough investigation, including speaking to the alleged bully in an investigatory discussion. It is important to remember that investigations regarding bullying should take place both quickly and impartially. Any investigation must be objective and all factors should be considered that is, harassment being felt differently by different individuals. It is not considered a breach of confidence to interview an alleged bully and indeed many policies on bullying or personal harassment within organisations include this step specifically. It could not be a rounded or a full investigation if the alleged bully is not spoken to as part of the investigation.

Your decision on whether the grievance can be upheld or not, that is, whether you can, from the available information, ascertain that the employee has suffered from bullying, should be conveyed to the employee. If the grievance is upheld, this may mean the consideration of some action taken against the perpetrator(s) in accordance with your disciplinary procedure.

Anti-bullying and equal opportunities policies are vital in order to set out your stall with regard to acceptable treatment of colleagues. These will inform employees of what is expected from their behaviour and also what the potential consequences are for any breaches.

Met Police to change workplace bullying procedures [theWarf, by Richard Beecham, 03/12/2015]

Survey among the police force’s staff show a lack of confidence in current system for complaining about workplace grievances.

The Metropolitan Police is to overhaul its internal grievance processes for all staff complaining of discrimination, bullying or victimisation, following recommendations made in a report.

New procedures will be implemented and additional resources and training devoted to investigating and resolving complaints more effectively.

The move follows an independent review commissioned by the Met of its Fairness At Work (FAW) policy prompted by the employment tribunal case brought by former PC Carol Howard .

The tribunal recommended an independent review after the case highlighted deficiencies in the way her complaints were handled.

The report also highlights results from a survey conducted with more than 11,000 officers and staff which showed a lack of confidence in the current system, particularly when dealing with allegations of discrimination or bullying and harassment.

Assistant Commissioner Martin Hewitt said: “It became clear during the Carol Howard case that our internal processes had failed and needed to be improved in a number of key areas.

“The report recognises we responded straight away by improving our oversight and management of these cases but Professor Roy Lewis and Acas’s work gives us a clear framework from which we will build a better system from the bottom up.

“Only a very small proportion of our staff and officers feel the need to make complaints about treatment linked to discrimination, bullying or harassment – only 61 colleagues out of a workforce of nearly 50,000 in 2014/15.

“Nevertheless there is complete commitment from the Met’s management board to do this properly and devote the necessary resources to it.

“We are especially concerned by the number of people who told us that they fear being victimised if they raise a complaint, regardless of whether that fear is justified. That has never been acceptable but we will be making it very clear to our staff that victimisation will never be tolerated, will be investigated, and will have serious repercussions if it occurs.”

Bullying in the health service [RTE News, by Fergal Bowers, 03/12/2015]

In all walks of life, there is the potential to be exposed to bullying. It is unacceptable anywhere. But it is especially insidious in the workplace, as this is where a person earns their livelihood.

In the health service, recent studies suggest a certain culture of bullying that is also driving some health staff abroad to work.

But it’s even more serious, writes Health Correspondent Fergal Bowers.

If bullying in the health service results in some staff not reporting concerns about the working environment and patient care, or not highlighting mistakes that have occurred, that should be of great concern to everyone?

Stephen McMahon, of the Irish Patients’ Association, said that the problem with bullying is that people are afraid to speak up.

The threat is that a person may lose their job, or promotional prospects.

The IPA says it is aware of several cases, including where a resident in a nursing home who alleges they were told that if they contacted the Health Information and Quality Authority, they would end up on the street.

In another case, a service provider lost their job working for a company when they made a complaint (whistleblew) about a client hospital.

Mr McMahon said that it is a responsibility of employers, institutions and society, to ensure that ordinary people, everywhere, at every age and whatever their occupation are protected from bullies.

Who does the bullying – managers, doctors, nurses?

The Health Service Executive says it does not have centralised data for allegations of bullying.

It said that many complaints are successfully resolved at local level, without recourse to formal investigation.

The HSE said it recognises the right of health service staff to be treated with dignity and respect.

It said it is fully committed to ensuring that all employees are provided with a safe, working environment, which is free from all forms of bullying.

There is a national ‘Dignity at Work Policy for the Health Service’.

The HSE says it recognises that a culture of bullying and harassment, if unaddressed, undermines employee motivation and morale and adversely affects the quality of patient care.

The Medical Council did a survey recently which has some worrying findings.

It showed the prevalence of bullying in the training environment for doctors and that it has a notable impact on doctors leaving the country to work elsewhere.

There was a significant link between trainees’ staying intentions and their experience of being undermined by a fellow consultant, or a GP in their working area.

Trainees who were frequently undermined in their post (34%) were significantly more likely to intend to leave medical practice in Ireland, than trainees who were never undermined.

The Irish Medical Organisation says it is “wholly opposed to bullying”.

Dr John Duddy, the union’s vice-president and chairperson of its Non Consultant Hospital Doctor Committee, says the IMO has dealt with a very small number of complaints over the years in relation to bullying issues from its members.

But he says the union is concerned that there is a level of under-reporting and a culture of just “getting on with it”.

Dr Duddy strongly encourages anyone experiencing bullying, to avail of the internal structures to deal with such issues and to seek assistance from the union.

He says there is no substantive data as to whether the level of bullying among medical trainees, is any greater than the level among other grades or professions within the health service, or the workforce generally.

Any form of bullying is inconsistent with a positive working experience.

At the IMO’s AGM in 2014, it passed a motion condemning bullying in the health service.

The health effects of bullying can be physical and psychological.

Those affected may experience anxiety, increased stress, panic attacks, a lack of sleep, higher blood pressure, ulcers and depression.

Is bullying professional misconduct for doctors and other professions?

The Medical Council which polices doctors’ behaviour says it would depend on the seriousness of the allegation and whether the allegations affect a doctor’s fitness to practise medicine.

The Council’s annual report for 2014 contains some figures on complaints in relation to ‘reporting concerns about colleagues’ and ‘professional relationships about colleagues’ which it says would be the closest categories to bullying.

The number of complaints in 2014 was 12 and 18 the previous year.

Bill Prasifka, the Chief Executive of the Medical Council, says the data on bullying in the medical profession has been a matter of concern for the Council, since the first Your Training Counts report published last year.

He says it raises concerns about the quality of life and wellbeing of doctors, with the associated link with poorer health and wellbeing for those experiencing bullying.

The Council says it is working with all parties involved in medical education to deal with the issue.

In April, the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation published a large scale survey of the current levels of workplace bullying.

The study was in partnership with NUI Galway and the National College of Ireland.

It found that over the last four years, there has been an increase of over 13% in perceived incidences of bullying.

Almost 6% of respondents reported that they are bullied on an almost daily basis.

The percentage of non-union members who experience almost daily bullying was almost double that of union members.

The study found that Government cutbacks were a probable explanation for the significant rise in reported bullying between 2010 and 2014.

These findings are disturbing.

They may also explain the level of absenteeism, or illness among staff, in certain areas of the health service.

Most large organisations have anti-bullying policies in place but what about implementation?

A zero tolerance policy of bullying should exist and it should apply to all levels of staff.

The advice to anyone experiencing bullying is to stay calm and walk away, document any incidence, follow bullying procedures and seek support.

This is not just an Irish problem. It was raised recently at the European Junior Doctors Group.

Its president, Carsten Mohrhardt told RTÉ News that workplace bullying and stress are factors in doctors emigrating.

The organisation says it is totally opposed to workplace bullying and is committed to tackling the issue in hospitals and healthcare centres throughout Europe.

The EJD says that national government and healthcare authorities should take all reasonable steps within their power to address this issue within the healthcare sector.

Bullying is one of those problems that can often remain hidden.

Yet usually when bullies are exposed, they are defeated.