A recent study by Plymouth and Cardiff universities has found that people with physical and mental disabilities are more likely to be bullied at work. 4,000 people were surveyed – 284 of whom have a disability or long-term illness – with 10% in the disabled category saying they had suffered physical abuse. This was compared to 4.5% in the other group. Nearly 25% of disabled people questioned had been insulted at work compared to 15% without disabilities.
Being ignored and being subjected to teasing were found to be the most common forms of bullying against those with a disability.
Attitudes towards disabled people in society have to be challenged constantly. Events such as the recent Paralympics have highlighted the importance of not falling into the trap of defining people by their disability, and instead to define them by their actions and achievements. However, it is clear from the above survey that outdated attitudes still prevail in society, and especially in the workplace.
It is important for disabled employees to raise concerns if they feel they are being victimised at work. There are several steps which can be taken to prevent this from happening.
Keep A Record Of Abuse
Being a victim of bullying can be a disorientating experience, but it is important that you keep a record of the abuse that you are suffering, no matter how trivial you think it will seem to other people. Use a notebook to record every incident which occurs, noting down when it happened and who the perpetrators were. This will provide you with backup of evidence.
No matter how angry you feel about the abuse you are suffering, it is important that you don’t try and retaliate against your bullies. This could potentially escalate the situation, and will give them something to use against you if management get involved in the issue.
Make Colleagues Aware Of The Problem
If bullying persists, make sure that you can rely on a few trusted colleagues to provide you with comfort and support. Ask them to keep an eye on any incidents that occur, as they will be able to act as witnesses when you are ready to tell management about the bullying.
Raise Concerns With Management
The next step is to raise your concerns with your manager or supervisor. Your bully or bullies want you to feel intimidated enough that you keep this problem to yourself, but you need to put aside and feelings of guilt or fear and talk to your manager. A responsible manager should then arrange a meeting with the perpetrators and issue them with either a formal warning or dismiss them for misconduct.
If you feel that your case hasn’t been handled properly, make sure that you raise any concerns with other senior members of staff. It is unacceptable for these issues to be simply ‘swept under the carpet’ by managers. Instead of giving up, you need to make sure that your grievance isn’t ignored.
This has been a guest post by James Archer on behalf of Pannone, a solicitors’ firm which specialises in disability rights and medical negligence cases.