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Producing the 'Respect at Work' Report

Lucy Adams

Director of BBC People

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Today we are publishing a report called 'Respect at Work'. It’s quite a lengthy document and draws upon contributions from nearly a thousand staff, freelancers, ex-staff and contractors. It tries to answer a simple question – does the BBC live up to one of its most important values, that of treating each other with respect?

When I began this work, I was determined to make sure a number of principles were followed, namely that:

  • Everyone who wanted to contribute could do so
  • Everyone would feel safe to say whatever they liked without fear of consequence
  • We would publish what we heard, even if it was uncomfortable
  • We would address problems with tangible, decisive action

So, we took a number of steps. We asked Dinah Rose, a leading QC to give her professional advice about our approach to bullying and harassment and to challenge our thinking all the way through. We asked Change Associates, an independent organisation to run the sessions with staff, freelancers and ex-staff to provide an assured confidentiality and objectivity. We asked our trade unions to provide us with submissions from their members.

Whilst the report does make uncomfortable reading at times, I am reassured that all of these principles have been followed and I believe that the report we have produced is an honest and unflinching account about what is great about working at the BBC but also, what needs to be fixed.

Firstly, the great stuff. Our people said that they are immensely proud to be a part of this amazing organisation that they love what they do and feel lucky to work with some great managers and colleagues. They believe in the BBC Values and are committed to helping to make this an even better place to work.

They also said that, thankfully incidents involving sexual harassment were extremely rare and that the BBC culture of today is very different to the past. Clearly one example is too many but I was pleased to hear that sexual harassment is not something our people were experiencing.

What needs to be fixed is that we have let bullying behaviour go unchallenged and some of our people have had unpleasant experiences as a result. This shouldn’t happen in any well-run organisation. It mustn’t happen at the BBC. Our audiences expect more of us and we expect more of ourselves as a result. No matter how junior or senior, no matter how short or long their time at the BBC, regardless of whether they are a member of staff, a freelancer or a contractor, they have a right to be treated with respect. No-one in a position of authority or power is “untouchable”.

If bullying does occur then we need to help managers and staff deal with it more quickly and more effectively. Our people should know they will be supported if they raise a concern and where to find that support.

When Tony Hall joined the BBC as Director-General the report was well under way, but he has taken a close personal interest in making sure that the report’s outcomes are acted upon and lead to change at the BBC. Tony, I and the BBC Management Board have agreed a number of actions to tackle the issues raised during the review. They fall into four broad categories:

  • Making sure everyone who works with the BBC knows the behaviour we expect from each other
  • Improving the way we tackle bullying and harassment
  • Helping our managers to create a great experience for their teams
  • Measuring and monitoring our progress.

I am very grateful to every person who took the time to talk or write to us during the review. Your honest contributions have really helped us shape the actions we need to take. I am grateful also to our trade unions and their members for working with us on this review and for their commitment to help us deliver on the actions.

Like many others, I too am immensely proud to work for the BBC. It saddens me to think that some of our people have had negative experiences. I know that we have both chosen and have had to go through some difficult and challenging times in recent years, and this can create enormous pressures for our people at all levels and in all areas of the organization. But I believe that even in the most pressurised of environments, mutual respect is possible.  As a colleague said to me recently, “the question we should ask ourselves is whether the BBC is the kind of place in which we would want our loved ones to work”. I want the answer to be a resounding yes. I believe the actions we are taking as a result of the Respect at Work review will go some way to make this the answer from all the people who work with the BBC.


Lucy Adams is Director, HR

Read the Respect at Work report on the Inside the BBC website.

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