BBC Respect at Work Review

In the wake the Jimmy Savile scandal, during which the trust of audiences and employees alike was tested to breaking point, the BBC Executive Board wanted to conduct a thorough consultation review of what it is like to work in the corporation. 

The review also needed to establish appropriate behaviour for staff and freelancers, in line with the BBC Values, and particularly the core value of Respect.

Against a background of well-publicised allegations of bullying and sexual harassment, the project demanded a highly sensitive approach and an objective approach. Change Associates was asked to help. 

The BBC commissioned Change Associates to conduct an extensive review, working closely alongside the BBC’s own HR department. Dinah Rose QC, a barrister with expertise in human rights, discrimination and employment law, was asked to oversee what became known as the BBC Respect at Work Review.

What we did

We established a project team that included specialists in employee consultation and engagement. Our consultants designed a series of interviews to enable our specialists to gather relevant qualitative data on an individual and group basis. We then began to construct a schedule that would maximise the opportunity to participate, while ensuring we could meet the BBC’s tight deadlines. 

The consultation meetings were publicised through internal communications channels including the intranet and staff emails. Management cascades, union briefings and staff forums were also used. 

Freelancers, staff employed by suppliers and current and former members of BBC staff were all encouraged to contribute.  

Change Associates consultants met with 350 people in group workshops and 200 more in one-to-one interviews. We also reviewed more than 375 emails, voicemails and written submissions, including contributions from the major unions. In total, 930 people’s views were heard. 

The sample included representatives from all levels and a broad selection of departments. Lengths of service varied from six weeks to 40 years. 

The process was designed to emphasise the confidential nature of the consultation to ensure participants could speak frankly in a safe environment.  

This consultation was supplemented with workshops for specific target groups (including HR, Industrial Relations, and third-party suppliers) and meetings with around 40 managers named as positive role models.

The results 

Change Associates delivered a detailed report to the BBC Executive Board, highlighting the key findings and recommendations below.


  1. Pride is a strong and consistent theme
    People are hugely proud to work for and with the BBC and this acts as a powerful retention factor.

  2. Incidents of sexual harassment at the BBC today are uncommon
    Sexual harassment was not a common theme in the current BBC workplace.

  3. There is evidence of inappropriate behaviour/bullying at the BBC
    Concerns raised about bullying and other forms of inappropriate behaviour were much more prominent in contributions to the review than concerns raised about sexual harassment.

  4. Some of the staff are fearful of raising issues
    An undercurrent of fear was present in the research. For some, there was a weary sense that no action will result from raising issues. This is fuelled by a lack of belief in management’s desire or capability to tackle difficult issues.

  5. Leadership
    There is not enough clarity about the behaviour expected from managers, staff, freelancers and talent.

  6. Role of HR
    When issues do arise, they need to be tackled more quickly and to greater effect.

  7. People Management
    There are good examples of people management at the BBC but it needs to be more consistent. Many staff have had positive experiences and have some very good people managers. Some managers saw a lesser value attributed to management skills when compared to technical skills, editorial judgement or process knowledge.


In its review of the report, the BBC fully accepted Change Associates' analysis and conclusions. Unions also supported and endorsed our findings and BBC employers were able to see positive changes happening because of the review.

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We were going through a very difficult time in the BBC. We were worried about a drop in trust and approval ratings. And here we were saying we’ve got a problem with bullying. We were going further than any other organisation. We knew that was the right thing to do and the way we would rebuild trust with our staff and with audiences, but it was a risky thing to do. Change Associates held our hand right the way through.
Lucy Adams, Former HRD of BBC


 Click this link to read the full Respect at Work review.