Female police staff more likely to be bullied at work than male colleagues

More than two thirds (67 per cent) of female police staff say bullying is a problem at work, and almost three quarters (72 per cent) are not confident that their force will deal fairly with any complaints of bullying, according to a new UNISON survey released today (Friday).

The survey of 1,000 police staff – to be launched at UNISON’s annual women’s conference in Brighton – is the first to explore the prevalence of bullying in the police since the introduction of the police code of ethics in April 2014.

The UNISON research reveals that women who work as police staff – 999 call handlers, police community support officers, crime scene investigators, fingerprint experts and detention officers – are 28 per cent more likely to be bullied than their male counterparts. Almost six in ten (58 per cent) of the female police workers surveyed said they had been bullied, compared to 45 per cent of their male colleagues.

Humiliation, being belittled or embarrassed was identified as the main form of bullying for female staff (43 per cent). This was followed by excessive criticism (37 per cent), being excluded or victimised, and excessive work monitoring (all at 29 per cent).

Both male and female respondents said that poor management was the most commonly cited cause of bullying (73 per cent), closely followed by workplace culture (47 per cent) and cuts to staffing (36 per cent).

Commenting on the findings UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: “This survey reveals the unpleasant truth about what it can be like for women working in the police today. Such levels of bullying are completely unacceptable.

“It is high time the police and the Home Office acknowledged the extent of the problem and began to tackle bullying in a meaningful way. This is a real issue within police forces, and our findings should be a wake up call for senior police leaders and politicians alike.

“The scale of bullying means there is a real risk that policing will no longer be seen as an attractive career option for women. Bullying is specifically prohibited by the police’s own code of ethics. Top police officers ought to be taking the issue much more seriously than appears to be the case.”

UNISON is keen to work with the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council in devising and implementing a strategy to tackle bullying.

Notes to editors:

– The full report is available here

Type of bullying % of women
Humiliation – being belittled or embarrassed 43
Excessive criticism 37
Being excluded at work 29
Victimisation – being singled out for unfair treatment 29
Excessive work monitoring 29
Gossiping or spreading malicious lies or rumours 25
Intimidation – being frightened, menaced or scared into complying 25
Setting unrealistic targets or deadlines 23

Table: Percentage of women who reported particular forms of bullying.

–    The police code of ethics sets and defines the standards of behaviour for everyone who works in policing. It was introduced in April 2014 and states explicitly that all those in the police workforce must ensure that their: ‘behaviour and language could not reasonably be perceived to be abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimising or offensive by the public or your policing colleagues’.

  • The survey was carried out online last summer. A total of 1,000 police staff responded.
  • UNISON’s annual women’s conference is taking place in Brighton between Thursday 11 February and Saturday 13 February.
  • All UNISON press release can be found at: https://www.unison.org.uk/news/media-centre/

UNISON media contacts:

Fatima Ayad T: 0207 121 5255 M: 07508 080383

E: f.ayad@unison.co.uk

Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175

E: l.chinchen@unison.co.uk

Alan Weaver T:  0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310

E: a.weaver@unison.co.uk