Bullied employees are twice as likely to approach their trade union for help as the company personnel department, according to analysis by two leading experts.
Research published last week by Professor Cary Cooper and Helge Hoel, of the Manchester School of Management, shows only 12 per cent of staff bullied at work turn to their HR departments for help, while 24 per cent would talk to their union.
But the researchers say both figures are too low.
They said, "The fact that only a minority choose to take their case to either their union or to a personnel officer suggests that employers and trade unions alike still have a considerable way to go to establish themselves as reliable sources of support."
The research, the UK's largest ever study of workplace bullying, is published in Employee Health Bulletin.
It found one in 10 staff say they have been bullied in the past six months.
Cooper and Hoel added, "Our results confirm that workplace bullying must be given high priority across all sectors and occupations."
The study covered a range of sectors from the emergency services, retailing and banking.
It found the highest number of employees experiencing bullying are in the prison service (15.9 per cent), telecommunications (15.8 per cent) and teaching (15.5 per cent).
A report published in February by Cooper and Hoel and backed by the CBI and the TUC found one in five people say they have been bullied over the past five years.
The findings were in line with Personnel Today's own research which also revealed at least of four of out 10 organisations do not have an anti-bullying policy.
Of HR professionals surveyed, seven out of 10 said they experienced bullying.
• More than 90 million working days are lost each year through workplace stress, according to latest figures from the Health and Safety Executive.