Employment practices at some of the UK’s vet surgeries are ‘a dog’s dinner’ where bullying and poor morale are widespread, according to a new survey by the British Veterinary Union in Unite (BVU).

The shock results from a pilot survey of 260 vets and nurses comes as pet ownership soars as Brits turned to their furry friends for solace during the months of lockdown and sales at The Pets at Home retailer increased by more than five per cent in the six months to October.

The BVU, a professional section of Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, called on veterinary practice owners and managers to take a hard look at their employment practices and the way that some staff feel they have been treated.

Key findings from those surveyed included:

  • 51 per cent had personally experienced bullying by a line manager and 39 per cent by a colleague;
  • 42 per cent had knowledge of someone being bullied by a line manager and 41 per cent knew of someone being bullied by a colleague;
  • as a result of bullying, 25 per cent resigned and left their workplaces with or without reporting their concerns to their line managers;
  • 27 per cent of the affected participants did not report their concerns to the management for fear of reprisal or other reasons;
  • overall competence by their practice management team to the issues raised was rated as: 68 per cent poor to inadequate, 28 per cent adequate to good and only four per cent rated the response as excellent.

The BVU, while recognising that the survey was only a pilot, said the trends, revealed, so far, were disturbing and needed urgent remedial action.

Unite BVU chair Suzanna Hudson-Cooke said: “Unite BVU is seriously concerned about the levels of bullying, unethical conduct and professional mismanagement revealed by this pilot survey. 

“Our profession is suffering with issues of stress, anxiety, mental ill health and suicides at disproportionately high levels amongst the veterinary workforce. 

“We should, therefore, do everything possible to reverse this trend by eliminating all types of malpractice, unethical conduct and bullying from our workplaces. 

“We urge all veterinary employers to proactively look into all issues affecting the well-being of their staff and take any complaints of bullying and unethical conduct seriously. 

“We advise our members to seek Unite’s assistance with any issues of bullying and not to suffer in silence, the BVU will act on your behalf and we will raise these issues as a matter of concern with your employer.” 

The BVU intends to conduct a comprehensive survey of bullying, unethical conduct and mismanagement in the veterinary profession and launch a campaign to eliminate these practices from veterinary surgeries.


Notes to editors:

The pilot survey was conducted via the BVU and other Facebook closed groups and 260 vets and nurses participated. Of the participants, 87 per cent worked in small animal practice and the other 13 per cent in equine/farm animal practice and academia.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.