The BBC revealed a report last week which found that 37 complaints regarding sexual harassment had been launched since 2006

The report, commissioned by the BBC in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal last year, was undertaken by distinguished barrister Dinah Rose. Although the report was initially only meant to cover sexual harassment in the organisation, the scope of the report was widened to include non-sexual bullying and harassment in the workplace. This was then published in an 80-page tome by the BBC under the name “Respect At Work”.

The report found that although sexual harassment in the BBC was relatively rare, there was nonetheless a perception by staff that some managers and “celebrities” at the organisation were “untouchable”. Further, two-thirds of the 500 staff interviewed for the report indicated that they had witnessed or experienced bullying at the BBC. This, Ms Rose stated, created a culture of “fear”: fear that workers would lose their jobs, be made redundant, that they would be bullied by their colleagues or that they would upset their co-workers. However, there was reported to have only been 37 complaints of sexual harassment made over the six year period – or just over 6 complaints a year.

The key findings of the report were as follows:

  • Staff are proud to work at the BBC
  • Incidents of sexual harassment at the BBC are rare today
  • There is evidence of inappropriate behaviour and bullying
  • Some staff are fearful of raising complaints
  • Issues – when they do arise – need to be tackled more quickly

The new Director General of the BBC, Mr Tony Hall, commented on the report that the report made “uncomfortable reading” and that there would now be a “zer0-tolerance” approach to bullying and harassment in the workplace. He also confirmed that the BBC would be reviewing and implementing changes to aspects of the workforce and the workplace so as to prevent and deal appropriately with bullying and harassment in the workplace. Such steps include:

  • Setting up a confidential helpline for staff if they’re concerned about bullying or harassment in the workplace
  • Overhauling the BBC’s bullying and harassment policies in consultation with the Unions
  • Changing the manner in which grievances are dealt with in the workplace, including a guarantee that complaints will be dealt with within 30 days

Under s.26 of the Equality Act 2010, sexual harassment in the workplace is unlawful. Sexual harassment occurs if you (or another person) is subjected to unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the complainant or of violating their dignity. If a worker or an employee has been sexually harassed in the workplace then they have the right to make a complaint to the Employment Tribunal and – if successful – may receive compensation for the injury to their feelings that has arisen from the harassment taking place.

Commenting after the publication of the report, Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans, stated that “this report shows that sexual harassment in the workplace appears to be relatively rare at the BBC. However, it must be borne in mind that not all incidents of sexual harassment are reported – normally because the victim is ashamed of what’s happened to them or because they fear the repercussions”.


The Direct 2 Lawyers Employment Team post daily on interesting employment law cases, Employment Tribunal judgments and Employment Appeal Tribunal judgments. All of the Employment Team posts are written by qualified specialist employment lawyers

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