Jon Richards and Hope Daley
UNISON is the largest trade union in the United Kingdom (UK) with 1.4 million members working in local government, health care, further and higher education, the water, gas, and electricity industries, transport and the voluntary sector. UNISON represents a wide range of professions and occupations, both manual and non-manual. Two-thirds of our members are women, many of whom provide caring services to the public.
We have advised on numerous bullying policies, and have written detailed general guidance on the issue for stewards and safety representatives, as well as guidance aimed at specific groups of workers. In addition, UNISON has been successful in a number of compensation cases on behalf of members bullied at work.
A policy makes a clear statement about what an organisation thinks, its relationship with staff and how it expects people to work within its culture. It also makes clear what is considered acceptable behaviour and what will not be tolerated. This is particularly important for lower-grade staff, as a large survey of UNISON members (UNISON 1997a) showed that 83 per cent of bullies were managers. Without a policy which legitimises complaints about bullying, it is difficult for staff to raise issues about their bullying manager or colleague.
Less moral reasons relate to legal, financial and organisational issues. A good employer with a sound policy should be able to demonstrate a commitment to tackling bullying. This, along with evidence that they have made reasonably practicable attempts to prevent problems, can be used to defend against litigious action. UK bodies such as the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) recommend framing a policy to deal with potential organisational and productivity difficulties caused by bullying (ACAS, 1999).
There are a large number of bullying policies around and they are of variable quality. The most detailed in the UK appear to be found in the public sector. We have chosen to give examples from a handful which include elements of what we believe makes a good policy.