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Hundreds of Highland Council staff feel they are not always treated fairly at work

By Scott Maclennan

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Highland Council HQ. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Highland Council HQ. Picture: James Mackenzie.

A Highland Council staff wellbeing survey has turned up remarkably similar findings to an earlier study that revealed hundreds of employees alleged bullying and harassment at the local authority.

Last year, the council released the results of BMG’s independent canvas of almost half the staff showing at least 500 respondents claimed they have been the victim of bullying or harassment.

At the time, the council's head of people, Elaine Barrie, said those results were out of kilter with internal findings and so it would conduct its own survey which has just been released.

Despite being an apparent response to bullying allegations the words “bullying or harassment” appear just once in the report and not in relation to tackling the issue but instead in whether staff know where they should seek support.

It does not appear that the survey was anonymous either – something that is known across public bodies to discourage people from taking part and in fact just 1614 people (or 15 per cent) did, compared to 5002 in BMG’s independent survey.

That was put down to attempting to canvas staff at the wrong time of year – winter and the Christmas holidays – or because of what was called “survey fatigue” related to the council budget consultation.

Yet the findings, despite having a much smaller sample size – 32 per cent less – show that hundreds of people working at the local authority feel uncomfortable while at work.

Staff were asked to define their responses as – never; seldom; sometimes; often; or always.

So 71 per cent of staff responded always (31 per cent) or often (40 per cent) to the statement: “I feel I am treated fairly at work” – but that still leaves those who did not agree with that statement entirely.

The breakdown for those who disagreed wholly or partially with the phrase they are “fairly treated at work” stands at 2 per cent for never; 7 per cent for seldom and 21 per cent for sometimes. A rounding error produced a total of 101 per cent.

Another proposition turned up similar results: “Due to work relationship issues, I feel uncomfortable whilst at work” – again the council highlighted that 71 per cent responded never (41 per cent) or seldom (30 per cent).

But again 29 per cent could not fully go along with that statement as 2 per cent said they always feel uncomfortable, 7 per cent said they often feel that and 19 per cent said they sometimes do.

What appears to be another rounding error produces a 99 per cent total.

That 29 per cent represents a total of 468 staff members so the results appear in line with the BMG’s more comprehensive independent survey for those who for one reason or another feel while at work unfairly treated or uncomfortable due to personal relationships.

Originally we reported that as one in ten council staff claimed to have suffered bullying and harassment in work.

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