The British Beauty Council is calling for an independent body to be set up to investigate claims of bullying and unfair dismissal in the industry, which does not have a trade union. It comes after the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme uncovered cases of bullying across all levels of the industry.

“I was seeing grown women, strong women, crying at their desks. It was so toxic and harsh that people were just desperate to leave,” says Sarah (not her real name), who had a senior role working for an international beauty brand.

She says her boss was a bully who spoke behind her back and told suppliers she was sharing their confidential information.

“After that, the bosses only gave me junior roles within projects and I was taken off the project I had been working on very successfully for two years,” she says.

“I was ignored by HR [human resources] and the board of directors. I feel so much anger – but it’s not even anger, it’s heartbreak.”

Sarah has since left the company.

The beauty industry contributed £14.2bn to the UK economy last year and employs one in every 60 people.

The Victoria Derbyshire programme has spoken to more than 20 people, from a company director to make-up artists in department stores, who claim to be victims of bullying, abuse and bad practice.

Many said they had suffered from anxiety, depression and even suicidal thoughts as a result.

Nearly all said the industry was facing an institutional bullying crisis but feared if they complained they would never work in it again.

It has no union, so employees can find they have no-one to put their case to or seek advice from outside their company.

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