Three in 10 RSPCA staff say they have been bullied in the past year

According to a report seen by Third Sector, there is also a lack of confidence in management's ability to deal with the issue; the charity promises to take action

RSPCA headquarters
RSPCA headquarters

The RSPCA has pledged to take action after a trade union survey showed that three in 10 staff members said they had been bullied in the past year.

The survey, seen by Third Sector, also suggests a lack of confidence among staff in the management’s ability to deal with the issue.

The report, which was produced in June for the charity by the trade union Unite, reveals that 29.3 per cent of staff at the RSPCA said they had been bullied in the previous year, and 37 per cent said they had witnessed bullying in the same timeframe.

By comparison, 19.9 per cent of NHS staff said they had been bullied in the previous year, the report notes.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA since August, said he was "deeply troubled" by the findings and promised changes.

The report says that about 46 per cent of staff said they saw bullying as a serious or very serious problem at the RSPCA, and senior managers were the most cited source of bullying, according to the report.

Poor managers, staff shortages, excessive workloads, stressed managers and the workplace culture were given as the biggest reasons for bullying at the RSPCA, according to the report, which is based on a workplace survey answered by 622 RSPCA employees. 

A majority of staff who responded felt that there was a fear of speaking up about bullying and that reporting issues would make matters worse, the report says.

The report says that 30.5 per cent of staff felt that bullying was tolerated and part of the RSPCA’s culture, with 54.4 per cent saying they had little or no confidence the charity would deal fairly with a bullying or harassment complaint.

It says that 41 per cent of employees felt that senior management did not take any action on bullying, however bad the case was, and that the bully always remained in post.

More than half of employees said they had little or no confidence about raising complaints of bullying and harassment with senior managers, and 53.7 per cent said the same about the HR department.

The report says staff had reported issues with anxiety, loss of sleep, irritableness, feelings of dread and tearfulness because of negative behaviour in the workplace. It recommends making tackling bullying a priority for the RSPCA.

The report says that 90.5 per cent of RSPCA staff said they had experienced at least one "negative behaviour" over the past year, which rose to 96.7 per cent in the charity’s inspectorate division.

It adds that 62.5 per cent had experienced five or more negative behaviours in the past 12 months, compared with just a third of NHS staff.

The most prevalent negative behaviours cited in the report were being exposed to unmanageable workloads, having opinions and views ignored, being given unreasonable deadlines, someone withholding information affecting the staff member’s performance, and being required to do work below their level of competence.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA, said: "As the new chief executive of the society, I am deeply troubled by the findings and take them extremely seriously.

"There is absolutely no place for bullying of any nature within the RSPCA. The wellbeing of our employees and volunteers is of utmost importance to us because, without their passion and commitment, we will not be able to deliver our goal of creating a world that is kinder to animals."

Sherwood said that since his appointment in August this year the charity had recruited a new director of people and culture who was looking at all aspects of staff wellbeing.

He added that the charity would be training managers and would shortly launch a wellbeing action group "which will work with Unite to review all relevant policies and explore fresh ways to ensure that anyone can raise a concern and access support".

Sherwood said: "I am determined that the RSPCA will be a rewarding, compassionate and empowering environment in which to work and volunteer."

Unite was unable to comment on the survey before publication of this story.

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