Head of PCS union says that seeming drop in instances of bullying does ‘not reflect the sad reality’
The civil service’s biggest union has written to Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm raising concerns about staff responses on bullying submitted to this year’s Civil Service People Survey.
Although the 2020 results have yet to be published, the PCS union said preliminary figures showed an increasing reluctance on the part of staff to report incidences of bullying – even though the proportion of Cabinet Office staff who said they had been bullied has dropped.
The PCS said the draft survey results found 10% of Cabinet Office staff indicating they had been bullied over the past year – a drop of five percentage points on 2019. But it said the figure was accompanied by a 14% drop in those who said they reported incidents of bullying they had experienced and a 15% rise in people who felt they had been punished for raising incidents.
In his letter to Chisholm, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said the 2019 People Survey results had shown that some 34% of staff had been keen to leave the Cabinet Office within the next year while just 22% had wanted to stay on for at least another three years.
The department’s headline survey data covers response from the approximately 850 employees of the Government Digital Service, as well as the Crown Commercial Service – for which separate figures are broken out.
Serwotka said the upcoming 2020 figures suggested that the department was failing to lead by example as the heart of government, and noted that the survey response rate had dropped by 6%.
“Our reps and members in the department believe these figures underestimate the true picture as many of those suffering do not complete the survey,” he said. “Many have lost faith in the system and some fear being identified and suffering further. These figures reflect the sad reality of a workforce that is being bullied and discriminated against, with many feeling their only option is to find work elsewhere.”
Serwotka added that “large numbers” of black and ethnic minority members of the union had come forward to highlight increased prejudice they had faced in the workplace since the death of George Floyd in the United States, which prompted this year’s Black Lives Matter protests.
He said disabled members had also come forward arguing that they had faced direct and indirect discrimination at work.
The Cabinet Office said bullying and discrimination were unacceptable and a range of policies, initiatives and training was in place to prevent it from happening and give staff the confidence to raise and report concerns.
“Our figures show a decline in numbers of those reporting that they had experienced bullying and harassment or discrimination, but we accept that there is more to do and we continue to work to tackle this issue,” a spokesperson said.