The BBC has today confirmed that it will be overhauling its bullying and harassment policy in conjunction with the unions following the publication of its Respect at Work Review. The Corporation also confirmed that it will be removing derogatory statement restrictions also known as ‘gagging clauses’ from future BBC contracts and compromise agreements.
The Review was prepared with the help of Dinah Rose QC and Change Associates working alongside the BBC’s own HR department. It was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to look at current BBC policies and processes relating to sexual harassment as well as what it is like to work at the BBC more broadly with regard to respect and appropriate behaviour for staff and freelancers.
Following recommendations from the Review which incorporate feedback from staff and unions, the BBC’s bullying and harassment policy will be reworked to ensure there is greater focus on informal rather than formal conflict resolution. It will also reduce the time taken to hear grievances by two thirds. In a further significant move, grievances will now be heard using managers from outside the division where the issue has arisen.
Separately, the BBC also confirmed today that so called ‘gagging clauses’ will no longer feature in new contracts. The clauses, which are not uncommon in employment contracts and compromise agreements, were not enforced during the Review to ensure that no-one was prevented from sharing their experiences. Whilst these clauses will no longer feature in new contracts, the BBC will continue to use confidentiality agreements where appropriate.
Dinah Rose QC said: “I have been very impressed by the integrity and determination with which the BBC has undertaken this important piece of work. The BBC's senior management has been willing to listen to difficult and uncomfortable messages, and to accept criticism, and has sought to make practical and effective recommendations for the future. I am glad that I have been able to assist in the creation of the Report, and look forward to seeing its implementation."
BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: “I am very grateful to Dinah Rose QC for her help with this important report. Our staff are our greatest strength and this report shows that they are proud to work for the BBC and that we have a culture based on values that are strongly held.
“Parts of this report do however make uncomfortable reading. We need to be honest about our shortcomings and single minded in addressing them. I want zero tolerance of bullying and a culture where people feel able to raise concerns and have the confidence that they will be dealt with appropriately. I also want people to be able to speak freely about their experiences of working at the BBC so that we can learn from them. The measures we are taking today, including the removal of so called ‘gagging clauses’, show our commitment to change. This agenda will be a priority for the senior management team going forward.”
Lucy Adams Director, BBC HR and sponsor of the Report, said: “The Respect at Work Review takes an unflinching look at the culture that exists inside the BBC today. It shows that there is much that is positive about working here but there are areas where we need to improve. Clearly bullying is an issue that needs to be dealt with within the BBC but feedback from freelancers and Bectu’s own survey findings have shown there are issues in this area across the industry as a whole.
“I am grateful to those members of staff, unions and contributors past and present who shared their feedback. Their insight has been invaluable. Our aim now is to ensure we can take the recommendations from the report and use them to improve the experience our staff have of working at the BBC.”
The Respect at Work Review received submissions from more than 930 individuals including past and present staff as well as the NUJ and Bectu unions. Its key findings include:
Staff are proud to work for the BBC
Incidents of sexual harassment at the BBC today are rare
There is evidence of inappropriate behaviour and bullying
According to the BECTU survey, bullying is considered to be the most prevalent form of inappropriate behaviour across the broadcasting industry not just the BBC
Some staff are fearful of raising complaints
The BBC needs to be clearer about the behaviour it expects from managers, staff, freelancers and talent
When issues do arise, they need to be tackled more quickly
There is good people management at the BBC but it needs to be more consistent.
The report has made a series of recommendations which the BBC Executive Board has accepted in full. These will be discussed with staff, freelancers, suppliers, unions, senior leaders and managers before being rolled out. They include:
Reworking the BBC’s bullying and harassment policy in conjunction with the unions to focus more on informal rather than formal resolution
Re-launching the BBC values as an integral part of the vision and strategy for 2022
Publicising the routes for support with bullying or harassment widely, including all HR contacts, and the employee counselling service
Launching a confidential helpline for support with bullying or harassment issues
Changing the way bullying and harassment complaints are heard. Complaints will be heard by a manager and an HR person from outside the division to ensure actual and perceived objectivity and fairness
Providing greater support for managers by providing mentors from the senior leadership team
Re-visiting all training and development for line managers.
The Respect at Work analysis demonstrated the need to know more about how staff are feeling and where problems might lie. The BBC has committed to improve understanding in the following ways:
In addition to the annual staff survey the BBC will run quarterly Values Surveys. These will be based on the BBC Values and will be sent to a random sample of staff. This will provide a more up-to-date picture of how the organisation is feeling than an annual survey
The BBC will continue to use the Work Pressure Index (questions drawn from the annual staff survey which indicate levels of stress) to identify those teams which may be feeling the pressure more than others and will provide greater support to managers and staff in these areas
The BBC will review the number of cases of bullying and harassment at the BBC Management Board and will publish the anonymised data relating to the number, time taken to address and conclude, and the outcome of each grievance.
BBC Press Office
Notes to Editors
The BBC may continue to use confidentiality clauses for other reasons including to protect commercial confidential information, confidential information about programming, and confidential information around personal data.
We are not intending to prevent an individual expressing an opinion about the BBC
Respect at Work Terms of Reference
The Review’s terms of reference were signed off by the Executive Board and are as follows:
To assess BBC policies and practices in respect of sexual harassment, comparing them to best practice guidelines, and make any recommendations for improvement required.
To assess complaints (formally raised over the past six years) of sexual harassment made by staff or freelancers at the BBC or involved in BBC productions. The Review will identify any themes and patterns which occur regarding how these claims were handled, how claimants were treated, what the outcomes were for the alleged harasser and how resolutions were arrived at.
To assess existing structures and resources to help ensure that they are easily accessible, clear and properly developed to support any complainant or manager handling a complaint, and direct them to the appropriate internal support or external authority as required.
To explore what it is like to work at the BBC more broadly with regard to respect and appropriate behaviour (in line with the BBC values), particularly for staff or freelancers working with individuals in positions of power.
Scope and methodology of the Review
The overall aim of the Review was to consider to what extent the value of respect is upheld in practice at the BBC, and, where weaknesses in policies, practices and culture are identified, to suggest ways in which the BBC can improve.
The BBC commissioned Change Associates, an independent company specialising in workplace culture, employee engagement and organisational change, to conduct an external investigation into and analysis of the current culture, values and behaviours held by the BBC’s staff and freelancers. They are a team of highly experienced and professional facilitators, coaches and researchers based across the UK and further afield.
The BBC invited current employees, freelancers employed by the BBC and staff employed by third party suppliers to contribute to the Review, publicising the call for contributions through emails, publicising the consultation online through Gateway (the BBC intranet), asking the management population to encourage their teams to take part, and asking the unions and staff forums to publicise the Review with their members. We also received contributions from former members of staff with recent experience of working at the BBC who contacted us and wished to take part in the Review.
Change Associates conducted an extensive series of interviews with BBC employees, freelancers, ex staff and contractors in groups, and one on one, speaking to more than 550 people through this process. They also reviewed 375 emails, voicemails and written contributions, as well as substantial written submissions from BECTU and the NUJ. This process has afforded an opportunity for people who work with the BBC to present their own honest appraisal of what it is like to work at the BBC today to an independent third party, anonymously and in confidence.
Considerable care has been taken to assure the anonymity of individual contributors to the Review, in order to facilitate the gathering of frankly-expressed views and accounts of experiences.
Change Associates’ analysis and conclusions are at section 3 of this Report, and are accepted by the BBC.
No current or former employees with recent experience of working at the BBC have been prevented from contributing to the Review during the consultation period. In particular, when approached by or on behalf of individuals who have signed a compromise agreement including a confidentiality clause, the BBC has made it clear that it welcomes input to this Review from them, and that the terms of the compromise agreement do not prevent such individuals from contributing to the Review.
It is not the purpose of the Review to reopen or retry individual past cases or complaints of bullying or harassment, or to investigate new ones against particular individuals.
Where individuals have indicated that they may wish to bring a new complaint, they have been advised of the procedure for raising any such complaint. Individual complaints are dealt with in accordance with the BBC’s Bullying and Harassment Grievance Policy.
The BBC’s policies for addressing harassment and bullying, and the means by which they are put into effect have also been considered. The outcomes of formal complaints of sexual harassment made to the BBC over the past six years have been identified and analysed as have the nature and scope of the training and support provided by the BBC in relation to harassment, bullying and respect at work, and the contractual terms addressing this issue which are included in BBC contracts.
The Review was commissioned by the BBC Executive Board under the executive sponsorship of Lucy Adams, Director of Human Resources. Dinah Rose QC, a barrister with expertise in human rights, discrimination and employment law, has been engaged to advise throughout, and to offer an independent perspective, and has assisted in the authorship of the report and recommendations.