Jeremy Heywood “disappointed” with bullying and harassment progress as People Survey results unveiled

Written by Matt Foster on 16 November 2016 in News

2016 People Survey shows overall year-on-year rise in staff engagement, but claims of bullying, harassment and discrimination at highest recorded levels

Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood has urged civil service leaders to “rededicate” themselves to rooting out bullying, discrimination and harassment in departments, as the latest staff survey showed the organisation has failed to make progress in dealing with the problem since last year.

The annual People Survey gathers the views of officials right across the civil service, and the results of the 2016 exercise show that overall staff engagement has rise by one point since last year, standing at 59%.

That puts engagement back at its 2014 high-point after a slight dip last year, and there was also upwards movement on satisfaction with learning and development, and a higher proportion of staff saying they felt they would be supported to try a new idea “even if it may not work”.

What does the 2015 Civil Service People Survey tell us about staff morale?
Jeremy Heywood urges civil servants to take part in 2016 People Survey

But the figures also show another year-on-year rise in both the proportion of staff who said they had “personally experienced discrimination at work” over the past twelve months, as well as those who said they had faced bullying or harassment.

The civil service-wide scores show that 12% of respondents now said they had been the subject of discrimination in the previous year, up from 11% in 2016 and the highest figure recorded since the survey began in 2009.

Meanwhile, 11% of the officials surveyed said they had experienced bullying or harassment in the past twelve months — up fromt he 10% figure recorded each year since the exercise began.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable that any civil servant should have to experience bullying, harassment or discrimination" - Cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood

The figures come in spite of the Civil Service Workforce Plan — the Whitehall-wide HR strategy launched in the summer — promising “to tackle exclusion, discrimination, bullying and harassment” through the launch of a new plan and toolkit for departments.

Responding to the findings, Heywood said that while the civil service had recorded “amazingly positive scores” in some areas, the figures on bullying and discrimination needed to be acknowledged.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable that any civil servant should have to experience bullying, harassment or discrimination, and it’s particularly disappointing after the efforts we have made this year to tackle this issue head on,” he said.

The cabinet secretary noted: “Of those who experienced bullying or harassment, only a third reported their experience and just one in five felt that their issue had been resolved. There is a lot more that we need to do in order to give confidence to civil servants, wherever you work, that your concerns will be listened to and action taken”.

The People Survey also asked officials who said they had been discriminated against to give more detail on the reasons they believed they had been targeted.

The highest proportion — 34% — blamed their “grade, pay band or responsibility level”, while 21% pointed to their “working pattern”.

But claims of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity also remained stuck on 10%, while 12% said their gender had triggered discrimination against them, the same figure as in 2015.

Those results will be seen as particularly worrying after the concerted push to improve diversity and inclusion policies in the civil service through the annually updated “Talent Action Plan” and the introduction of dedicated, performance-pay-linked diversity objectives for senior officials.

Pay and benefits

The 2016 People Survey also reveals how low levels of satisfaction with pay and benefits continue to be a key sticking point for staff.

While there was a one percent year-on-year rise in the government-wide engagement score for pay and benefits, just 32% of staff said they felt their pay “adequately reflects” their performance.

And a little over a third of those surveyed — 34% — declared themselves “satisfied with the total benefits package”. When the survey began in 2009 — before a public sector-wide pay freeze was introduced — those figures stood at 36% and 44% respectively.

Elsewhere, ninety percent of officials now say they are interested in their work, while 80% say they are “sufficiently challenged” by it.

A record proportion of respondents — 69% — now say that their manager motivates them "to be more effective" in their job, up from 61% when the survey began, while 83% say their manager is “considerate of my life outside work”, a 6% rise on 2009 levels.

Overall, 279,708 officials across 98 government organisations took part in this year’s people survey, an overall response rate of 65%, and the same level as in 2015.

CSW will be taking an in-depth look at the departmental results of this year’s survey in the coming days


Author Display Name
Matt Foster
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Matt Foster is CSW's deputy editor. He tweets as @CSWDepEd

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William (MOD) (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 08:32
Sir Jeremy, About pay, all you have done is told us what we can read in the report. My question, and I assume that of all civil servants, is after the increases in deductions - when are we going to get a cost of living pay rise that gets me close to what I took home 6 years ago? You have completely ignored the topic, or do you think we are all still "realistic about the pay restraint"? See -

pete (DWP) (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 13:58
Jeremy - I never see leadership in this country otherwise MP's and Senior Management in the Civil Service would all lead by example -and take significant pay cuts and amendments to their redundancy packages etc Do we see this NO Nor do I see any signs of diversity inclusion for minority groups such as transgender people - What Senior Civil service talk about never flows down to the grass roots and as William states its the lowest paid who take the brunt of the public that seem to get hit the hardest - Morale is poor unless your a graduate or contactor

William (MOD) (not verified)

Submitted on 18 November, 2016 - 09:44
Jeremy, I'm a MSc engineer, and we've fallen well behind industry since the Governement of the day created that moronic broader banding. So, please do not think graduates are much happier - ask the CS how many specialists in engineering and science it can recruit and retain.


Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 14:06
Regarding changes to the Civil Service Compensation Scheme ........ "If the Government cannot secure agreement to these reforms from a sufficient number of unions it will implement an alternative package with less favourable terms." Define bullying for me please Sir Jeremy....??????????????...and at the same time award yourself a performance improvement plan.

Nian (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 14:35
On the pay figure I think they may have been worse if it wasn't for many grades in DWP seeing the benefits of the recent employee deal just prior to the survey. It will be interesting to see the results by grade and department.

IBP (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 15:05
Given the tactics employed in imposing changes to the civil service compensation scheme, I am surprised that more people didn't indicate that they had been subject to bullying

Stuart Fenton (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 15:43
You may find that some of the sentiments behind bullying come from the very top. When the Directors within a government department completely ignore staff and Union views; then continue to implement detrimental pay and conditions which, funnily enough, tend to penalise the lower paid workers and they get huge bonuses or further promotions for themselves. And all that is a form of bullying and harassment.

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 17 November, 2016 - 16:27
He should be disappointed about the rest of it too

Nic MOJ (not verified)

Submitted on 18 November, 2016 - 03:20
The survey is structured to lead to better outcomes than are real. For example questions on work life balance reflect policy opportunity rather than actual a goof example being the policy is you can ask for flexibility in working hours...but very few other than the most senior grades are ever granted it. In my team 55% indicated they wish to leave the MoJ within a year. ...given most of our team are SEO and above, have at least 20 yrs service each and come from a "high performance team" isn't this a better measurement of reality rather than "how happy did you feel yesterday". Staff of all grades are dropping like flies through exhaustion afraid to say anything as not to be seen as incorporate (which is bullying via performance managenent). Oh and on pay. ..I'm having to sell my home of 20 years as I can no longer afford it due to cuts on take home pay due pay and pension reforms imposed on me resulting in having to move my wife and son to a cheaper area where we have no family ties or roots....A home we could comfortably afford before said imposed reforms. This is the real face of being a civil servant, real lives made miserable and high performance not rewarded at all

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 18 November, 2016 - 10:07
Start by instilling and pushing a culture change and zero- tolerance from senior managers down to the lower tier managers and put trust and confidence back into grievances being taken seriously

Anonymous (not verified)

Submitted on 19 November, 2016 - 11:38
Why does bullying happen in the civil service? The civil service lacks business etiquette. Not to put too fine a point on it, civil service culture is rotten.

Nick (not verified)

Submitted on 24 November, 2016 - 14:03
The survey itself is poor and meaningless, and regardless of outcomes, there is always positive spin that somehow the results are great. Regarding bullying, what the survey doesn't ask is what, or why people consider themselves to be bullied, or harrassed. I can guarantee through converstaions with people across a wide range of directorates that a common theme is People Performance reporting and the guided ditribution curve. My discussion suggests people are bullied, and/or harrassed into either giving the 'correct' levels of 'must improve' to meet the curve; or until they succumb to accepting a must improve marking. And notably the appeals process is structured with a bias completely against the rights of the individual. The bullying/harrassment situation is driven by the TOP. Therefore 'Sir' Jeremy should start looking closer to home before dictating "civil service leaders to “rededicate” themselves to rooting out bullying, discrimination and harassment in departments". Of course we can look forward to the results of the new reporting trials, where if we call 'must improve' something different (perhaps 'a pink fluffy bunny'), everyone will be happy. The level of crass, self serving and uninformed leadership in the Civil Service disgusts me.

R G Saunders (not verified)

Submitted on 29 November, 2016 - 14:46
Agree completely with this.

Tiny Tim (not verified)

Submitted on 30 November, 2016 - 12:47
It's a system totally alien to Civil Service values. It's not fair and honest. Senior managers are pre-picking lists for approval by the Independent Board members and not all evidence is considered by choice on the review panel members and not the actual job holder. Some Independent Assessors are now walking away from Performance review meetings because of the lack of actual evidence review.

David Rose (not verified)

Submitted on 24 November, 2016 - 20:09
Did you hear the one about the Executive Director who screamed so loudly at his junior a mere Grade 7 that he caused said Grade 7 to have a stroke in the middle of the office. Bullying what bullying?

Steve moj hmts (not verified)

Submitted on 2 December, 2016 - 12:58
The tower of MOJ housing us working for courts, prisons and others curled up and feeling alone in such an establishment. Despite visibility of elements of bullying by many around, including those supposed deemed senior management; steps are barely taken to address/eradicate the cause to stop effects on those endured around; instead opting sidelined. A 'tower' with authority, albeit of sorts, failing to address such matters of what would think should be a serious area for concern. What has changed to allow this and why? Surely this cannot be right?

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