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Quarter of employees suffer bullying or discrimination at work

Employers should introduce policies to protect employees from bullying and discrimination based on gender, age or sexual orientation

Over a quarter of employees (28%) suffer bullying and/or discrimination in the workplace based on gender, age or sexual orientation, according to research from Bupa.

Its survey of 4,000 employees found that bullying and discrimination at work is having a negative impact on wellbeing, with 44% saying their wellbeing had been impacted by bullying in the last three years.

Women in the workplace face particularly significant challenges at work, given over a third (34%) said they experienced bullying or discrimination compared to 22% of men.

Women were also more than four times as likely to suffer negatively from workplace gender discrimination than men (13% compared to 3%).

Overall, almost one in four (23%) employees in the UK struggle with poor wellbeing in a working week, with almost three-quarters (72%) citing workplace and mental health issues as key factors.

The research also found a strong correlation between workplace happiness and feeling able to talk to managers about problems.

Half (51%) of employees who have discussed a wellbeing issue with their manager – work-related or not – reported it was a positive experience.

However, employees reported feeling unable to speak to management about issues. Forty-two per cent said they did not feel comfortable talking to their manager about their wellbeing, with almost half (48%) citing fears of being judged and 50% instead choosing to handle issues on their own.A similar proportion (43%) also said they currently do not have access to wellbeing support services at work.

Higher salaries (57%), better recognition for work (35%) and more manageable workloads (27%) were cited as key ways to improve workplace wellbeing, alongside fellow colleagues (50%) and encouraging an inclusive work culture (25%).

David Hynam, global and UK CEO at Bupa, said it is vital that employees feel able to be themselves at work.

“Creating a positive working environment where employees are comfortable to bring their whole self to work, and being able to speak up if they experience any problems, is absolutely key to enabling your people to thrive in the workplace," he said.

“I believe it’s particularly important for businesses to have a clear stance on inclusion."

Hynam added that organisations should have policies in place to protect employees from bullying and discrimination:

"Having a code of conduct that clearly sets out that all colleagues are treated equally, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion is one way to help everyone feel comfortable within the business and that discrimination and bullying has absolutely no place within the organisation.”