Bullying and Harassment Costing the NHS Billions

Written by
Angharad Rayner


A new study, with data taken from NHS Digital has suggested that the effect bullying has on sickness absence, employee turnover, productivity, employment relations and sickness presenteeism has an estimated overall cost of £2.281 billion per year.

Sickness presenteeism is thought to have the biggest financial impact. When staff are suffering bullying at work there is a loss of productivity and a likelihood that more mistakes will be made, estimating in a cost to the NHS of £604.4 million. In the most recent NHS England Staff survey, almost a quarter of staff reported being bullied and harassed by colleagues.

It is thought that the ever-increasing strain on the NHS is contributing to a high-pressured working environment, with unprecedented demand and financial constraints, which will inevitably have an impact on staff well-being and patient safety.

Bullying and harassment at work isn’t a problem only experienced by the NHS, it is felt across all sectors and industries and is reported to be on the rise. Bullying and harassment can take many forms which can be difficult to recognise. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees to provide a safe working environment and a failure to do so could result in the Employer facing claims for harassment, discrimination and constructive dismissal. So in order to tackle this ever increasing problem, employers must take steps to educate and provide information to it’s employees about bullying and harassment in the workplace.

What is bullying and harassment?

Bullying and harassment at work can take many forms but can include the following:

-         Threatening, aggressive or intimidating behavior;

-         Exclusion or victimisation;

-         Unfair treatment;

-         Overbearing supervision or treatment or misuse of power;

-         Prevention from progression

-         Humiliating, degrading or demeaning behaviour

Under the Equality Act 2010 harassment is described as “unwanted conduct related to a relevant characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

Bullying and harassment are not always face to face. Such behaviour can occur in other ways such as email or telephone.

Job performance is almost always affected if an individual feels bullied and harassed. It can cause stress and anxiety as well as a loss of confidence and self-esteem. It will also have a negative impact in the workplace such as low morale, inefficiency, poor employee relations and ultimately the loss of staff. So with this in mind it is in everyone’s interests to prevent workplace bullying and harassment. 

What can an employer do to prevent bullying?

An employer has a duty to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace and should make it clear to all employees that such behaviour will not be tolerated. The following steps can be taken to try and minimise any risk of bullying and harassment:

  • Implement an anti-bullying and harassment policy showing that the employer is committed to providing a safe working environment. The policy should set out what is expected of your employees and what is unacceptable. It should also clearly set the process to be followed if anyone feels subjected to bullying or harassment, from raising the complaint to possible sanctions.
  • Encourage an open, honest and supportive working environment where employees feel free to discuss any issues they have about bullying and harassment in the workplace.
  • Look out for unwanted workplace behaviours, such as unexpected high levels of absence, dipping performance or low mood, and investigate further to see if there are any underlying issues.
  • Provide training to employees to recognise signs of bullying and harassment in the workplace and information on who they turn to in such an event.

These are just some of the things an employer can do to try and prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace, but it is not always an easy obstacle to overcome.

For any advice or support on implementing anti-bullying and harassment policies in the workplace or dealing with disputes or grievances in relation to bullying and harassment speak to one of our experts at Cater Leydon Millard on 01235 821 115.