Confidential bullying helpline goes live

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The BBC has launched a support line for staff affected by bullying or harassment.

The confidential service - to be run by Care first's team of trained counsellors - is open to all BBC employees, including freelancers, and is open all day, every day of the year.

It offers an alternative to those victims of bullying who are reluctant to report the behaviour through more formal routes.

The helpline was among the recommendations in the Respect at Work Review, led by Dinah Rose QC, which found bullying to be a 'very real concern' at today's BBC.

Published in May, the review also identified a 'strong undercurrent of fear' among staff to complain about bullying, with some believing it would be 'career suicide' to escalate such issues.

Other changes have been implemented as a result of the review, which was triggered by the Jimmy Savile sexual abuse scandal.

The BBC has introduced a new process to ensure all bullying and harassment complaints are heard outside of the complainant's division, clauses about bullying and harassment in new employment contracts and exit questionnaires for those leaving the Corporation.

'We're making good progress and sharing our work with the wider broadcasting industry wherever possible,' said Lucy Adams, HR director, 'but we know we need to continue to work hard to tackle this issue.'

Leaked dossier

Next month, the BBC is due to launch a new bullying and harassment policy, but the National Union of Journalists has already criticised the draft document for not being independent.

'It's still BBC managers investigating and judging other BBC managers,' said a union spokesperson. 'We know that in that situation the BBC usually finds in favour of the BBC, not staff.

'If the policy does not have an independent element, the NUJ will not be signing up to it.'

Earlier this month, the 109-page dossier of staff complaints about bullying and harassment - compiled by the NUJ and submitted to the Respect at Work Review - was leaked to the press.

The document was reported to include damaging first-hand accounts from staff who had been bullied by managers - particularly in a news environment - with examples of sexist, racist and ageist abuse, as well as people mistreated because of their sexuality.

At a Parliamentary select committee hearing this week, MP Ben Bradshaw said the document suggested that it was a 'hornet's nest' in the newsroom and that the issues hadn't been addressed.

But Tony Hall told MPs that a number of disciplinary hearings had taken place and that one person, who was the subject of a complaint, had now left the BBC.

The director general believed it was important not to allow such situations to 'fester'.

'We are trying to deliver results on all the cases as quick as we can,' he said.

The BBC has said that around 30 cases of alleged bullying are currently being investigated.

Call the helpline on 0800 014 7154 (or +44 1452 623367 from overseas) or contact Care first counsellors online

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