The professional body for solicitors, The Law Society, appears to suffer from bullying and discrimination in the workplace. A survey of its own employees suggests it’s a familiar occurrence.
The poll of nearly 400 staff at the society, which represents 150,000 solicitors, suggests that 16 per cent have been bullied in the past year, and 10 per cent claim to have been victims of discrimination. These findings are above the national average of 9 per cent for discrimination and 13 per cent for bullying. They have prompted an overhaul of “dignity at work” policies, and the chief executive, Des Hudson, has taken on the role of “diversity champion” with the intention of eliminating the practices.
In a newsletter, Mr Hudson told staff: “I believe it is fundamentally important for the chief executive to lead this agenda and I want to make sure we get it right.”
The proposed plan includes staff training on “managing a diverse workforce”; the possible appointment of volunteer “harassment advisers” and workshops to ensure staff have “an understanding about the standards of behaviour expected at the Law Society”.
“We are taking this very seriously and we are making progress,” said Mr Hudson, who steps down imminently, adding that he wanted to make “even more progress” to ensure that whoever took over “has a strong foundation to build on when it comes to diversity and inclusion”.
Under the plan, Mr Hudson says that he is accountable for ensuring “that discriminatory or bullying behaviour is not tolerated”. Diversity and dignity at work is to be a standing item on all council and senior management meetings and progress will be monitored. The views of staff will be gleaned through focus groups and senior managers are reminded that they are responsible for leading change and listening to staff concerns.
The Law Society has been hit by claims of bullying before. Fifteen years ago, The vice president at the time, Kamlesh Bahl, was accused of bullying five staff, prompting an independent inquiry by Lord Griffiths, a former law lord.
The BBC have also recently hit the headlines for harassment and bullying after an investigation took place over allegations involving sexual harassment. 53 year old Mark Sandell, an editor who worked for the World Service has been sacked after 25 years of working for the corporation. Mr Sandell is appealing against the decision. A BBC spokesman declined to comment.
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