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BBC staff 'fearful' of raising bullying and harassment complaints

The BBC has confirmed it will be overhauling its bullying and harassment policy, after its Respect at Work Review found many employees are fearful of raising bullying and harassment complaints.

The majority of contributors to the review said they wouldn't report 'inappropriate behavior' because of the potential impact on their career, reputational damage and concern about encouraging more of the same treatment.

The review found for some employees there is a 'weary sense' no action will result from raising bullying and harassment issues. The report revealed this is fuelled by a 'lack of belief' in management's 'desire or capability' to tackle difficult issues. This has been exacerbated by cuts and cost savings at the BBC, which have led to concerns about current and future employment opportunities, the report found.

The review led by the BBC's own HR department and co-authored by its HR director Lucy Adams was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to look at BBC policies and processes relating to sexual harassment.

Following recommendations from the review the BBC said its bullying and harassment policy will be 'reworked' to ensure there is greater focus on informal rather than formal conflict resolution. It will also reduce the time taken to hear grievances by two thirds.

In a further significant move, grievances will now be heard using managers from outside the division where the issue has arisen.

The BBC also confirmed 'gagging clauses' will no longer feature in new contracts.

The report recommended that when issues do arise they 'need to be tackled more quickly and to greater effect'. The BBC understands its people are unclear how to use the tools and resources available, and some of them are not seen as being sufficiently impartial, particularly HR.

Adams said the review takes an "unflinching" look at the culture that exists inside the BBC. "It shows there is much that is positive about working here but there are areas where we need to improve," Adams said.

"Clearly bullying is an issue that needs to be dealt with within the BBC but feedback from freelancers and Bectu's own survey findings have shown there are issues in this area across the industry as a whole."

She added: "Our aim now is to ensure we can take the recommendations from the report and use them to improve the experience our staff have of working at the BBC."

BBC director-general Tony Hall said: "Our staff are our greatest strength and this report shows they are proud to work for the BBC and that we have a culture based on values that are strongly held.

"Parts of this report do however make uncomfortable reading. We need to be honest about our shortcomings and single minded in addressing them."

Hall added: "I want zero tolerance of bullying and a culture where people feel able to raise concerns and have the confidence that they will be dealt with appropriately.

"I also want people to be able to speak freely about their experiences of working at the BBC so that we can learn from them. The measures we are taking today, including the removal of so called 'gagging clauses', show our commitment to change. This agenda will be a priority for the senior management team going forward."

The Respect at Work Review received submissions from more than 930 individuals including past and present staff as well as the NUJ and Bectu unions.

The full report can be read here