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Is bullying at work getting worse?

The largest survey of workplaces in Britain - the Workplace Employment Relations Survey (WERS) - reported that three per cent of workplaces (with 10 or more employees) had experienced at least one grievance relating to bullying and harassment in the year prior to the 1998 survey; by 2004 this had risen to seven per cent.

A study in 2011, by public sector union Unison, reportedthat six out of 10 public sector workers in the UK had either been bullied themselves or had witnessed bullying in their workplace. The findings also suggested a strong link between the increased incidence of bullying and the economic downturn, with one in four workers believing that staff cutbacks had been a direct cause of workplace bullying.

The majority of those polled in the Unison survey - 53% - said they would be too scared to raise concerns over bullying in the current climate, compared with just 25% two years ago.

But if people at work are not speaking out about bullying, it does not mean they are not suffering its affects. There is a clear link between increased bullying and rates of workplace stress and sickness absence. The Chartered Institute of Personnel Development recently reported that stress is now the major cause of long-term sickness absence for both manual and non-manual workers.