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