Optical bodies commit to “zero-tolerance” approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination

The pioneering agreement attempts to tackle high levels of bullying, harassment, abuse, and discrimination within the sector

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Getty/katleho Seisa

A coalition of optical bodies have signed joint statement committing to a “zero-tolerance” approach to bullying, harassment, abuse, and discrimination across all working environments.

The agreement comes after a recent a General Optical Council (GOC) survey found that 41% of respondents working in the optical sector had experienced harassment, bullying or abuse at work in the past year.

One in four respondents had experienced discriminatory behaviour from patients.

The most common form of discrimination was racial (reported by 44% of respondents who experienced discriminatory behaviour) followed by sex and age-based discrimination (both reported by 32% of those who experienced discrimination).

The joint statement was signed by a variety of the sector bodies, including professional bodies for optometrists in all four nations of the UK, the Association of British Dispensing Opticians, Local Optical Committee Support Unit and Optical Consumer Complaints Service.

The statement commits to working together to create a safe and positive environment for all members of the optical team.

“Discriminatory and unacceptable behaviours can have damaging effects on the mental health and wellbeing of individuals and teams, which in turn can impact on patient care,” the statement highlighted.

“As a sector we are committed to a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment, abuse, and discrimination across all working environments.”

AOP chief executive, Adam Sampson, shared his endorsement of the statement.

“Every eye care professional should be able to go to work without the fear of discrimination, harassment or abuse but this is not the reality for all practitioners,” he said.

An equality, diversity and inclusion survey commissioned by the AOP in 2022 found that one in four optometrists had either witnessed or experienced discrimination at work in the past two years.

“Sustained action is needed to tackle toxic work environments. This is why we continue to work with employers in the sector on this issue while also providing guidance, advice and resources for our members to use if they are experiencing harmful behaviour at work,” Sampson emphasised.

The AOP has put a spotlight on discrimination within the optical workforce through its 100% Respect campaign, launched in 2022.

The Anti-Racism and Equality Team, made up of AOP staff optometrists, provides emotional and practical support for members facing discrimination.

Optometrists shared their experiences of discrimination through OT’s Time to Speak series, available to read online.