Survey of thousands of Home Office staff revives bullying row

Thousands of Home Office employees claim they have been discriminated against, bullied or harassed at work, according to the results of a staff survey.

The Home Office people survey, which was conducted in autumn 2019 and was completed by 21,095 employees, is part of a civil service-wide assessment.

The results show 16% of respondents claim they had been discriminated against at work in the past 12 months, roughly equal to 3,375 individuals.

And 14% said they had been bullied or harassed at work in the same period, roughly equal to 2,950 employees.

The survey comes shortly after bullying allegations erupted at the top of the Home Office, with the home secretary, Priti Patel, accused of belittling officials and presiding over an “atmosphere of fear”. Patel took up the post in July.

Amid the allegations, the then permanent secretary at the Home Office, Sir Philip Rutnam, resigned, claiming constructive dismissal and accusing Patel of bullying her subordinates.

The results also follow the publication of the Windrush review, which concluded that some of the failings that led to the scandal were caused by “institutional ignorance and thoughtlessness towards the issue of race”.

The independent reviewer, Wendy Williams, made a number of recommendations related to the issue of race, including regularly reviewing successful tribunal claims relating to race discrimination.

There were a broad range of reasons given by those who said they had been discriminated against in the previous 12 months, including 637 respondents who said they had been discriminated against on the grounds of age, 518 because of ethnic background and 547 for gender.

Of those who claimed they had been bullied, 1,444 said the nature of bullying was “negative micromanagement eg excessive control; made to feel incompetent”, while 1,242 respondents said they had been “humiliated in front of team or others”.

The majority – 1,227 – of respondents said they were bullied by a colleague in the same area, directorate or division.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Reports of bullying, harassment or discrimination are at their lowest levels since 2016 but we are constantly looking at ways in which we can improve our culture and enable our people to thrive.

“The home secretary recently spoke of her determination to make the Home Office a better place to work and to put fairness, dignity and respect at the heart of its mission.”

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