A recent investigation into the beauty industry has found that claims of bullying and abuse are rife in the sector. The investigation found that nearly all of the victims of bullying that they spoke to feared that if they complained, they would never work in the industry again. Many said they had suffered from depression and anxiety as a result.
Bullying at work can be hard to define, especially where it is unrelated to any discrimination issues. ACAS defines bullying as 'offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient' but it can be difficult to draw a line in practice between what is acceptable and what is bullying.
So what can employers do to prevent bullying?
- Promoting a culture of trust and understanding in the workplace should help reduce bullying and ensure that if there are instances of bullying, employees feel more confident in coming forward about it (both victims and witnesses).
- Employers should ensure that they have an anti-harassment and bullying policy which makes it clear that harassment and bullying will not be tolerated in the workplace and that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity. Both new and current staff should be made aware of this policy and managers should be provided with training in relation to it.
- All complaints relating to bullying (both informal and formal ones) should be taken seriously and investigated in a timely and confidential manner. Employees should be told who to speak to about any problems and how to raise a grievance as necessary.
- Your employees' mental health and wellbeing should be considered when dealing with accusations and instances of bullying. Ensure that appropriate measures are put into place to allow the victim to feel comfortable in the workplace and make sure that they do not suffer any form of retaliation or victimisation as a result of their complaint. Likewise, ensure that a through and unbaised investigation is carried out in the perpetrator's side of the story too.
The British Beauty Council is calling for an independent body to be set up to investigate claims of bullying and unfair dismissal in the industry, which does not have a trade union. It comes after the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme uncovered cases of bullying across all levels of the industry. "I was seeing grown women, strong women, crying at their desks. It was so toxic and harsh that people were just desperate to leave," says Sarah (not her real name), who had a senior role working for an international beauty brand.