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Theatre organisations welcome MP report aimed at addressing sexual harassment in the workplace

The report highlights a “widespread problem” in the arts. Photo: Shutterstock The report highlights a “widespread problem” in the arts. Photo: Shutterstock
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Industry bodies including the Society of London Theatre have welcomed recommendations from MPs aimed at stamping out sexual harassment in UK workplaces, as a report highlights the “widespread problem” in the arts.

The MPs behind the recommendations claimed employers and regulators have ignored their responsibilities around preventing sexual harassment “for too long” and are failing to challenge unlawful behaviour.

A wide-ranging report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee has drawn up five recommendations to help address this across all UK workplaces. Alongside SOLT, the recommendations have been welcomed by UK Theatre and the Incorporated Society of Musicians.

The entertainment industry is referenced as a sector in which the inquiry’s evidence found sexual harassment to be a “widespread problem”.

The report, which is the culmination of a six-month inquiry, concluded sexual harassment in the workplace “commonplace”, and described it as shameful that unwanted sexual behaviours are seen as an everyday occurrence and “part of the culture in workplaces”.

In response, the committee is calling on government to focus on five key areas that will put sexual harassment at the top of employers’ agendas.

These include:

  • A duty on employers to prevent harassment
  • A requirement on regulators to play a more active role
  • Making enforcement processes, such as tribunals and claims, easier for employees
  • Cracking down on the use of non-disclosure agreements
  • Collecting robust data on the extent of sexual harassment

A spokeswoman for SOLT and UK Theatre welcomed the report, and said: “Any commitment towards making UK workplaces of all kinds safer and more supportive environments is a positive step forwards. Theatre is no exception and SOLT and UK Theatre have introduced several initiatives in response to our 2017 workforce review.”

These include 24-hour helpline for members of the theatre industry.

The ISM’s chief executive Deborah Annetts encouraged the government to give serious consideration to the report’s recommendations, but said statutory changes were “only part of the solution”.

“Of equal importance is a shift in culture in the workplace and the training environment,” she said, adding that ongoing training and widespread commitment to new codes of practice would result in lasting change.

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