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Theatre company in harassment case to face intervention from Equality Commission

Helen Haines. Photo: Rocco Redondo Rainbow Theatre Productions was ordered to pay £10,500 to Helen Haines. Photo: Rocco Redondo
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A theatre company that was at the centre of a sexual harassment case last year has become the first in the industry to sign a formal agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, promising to better protect its employees.

Following a tribunal in 2017, Rainbow Theatre Productions was ordered to pay £10,500 to Helen Haines, an actor in one of its shows, after the judgement found she was sexually harassed by colleagues while working for the theatre-in-education company.

EHRC, the UK’s national equality body, has used its powers under the Equality Act to enter into a legal agreement with Rainbow to ensure that its workers are better protected against harassment in future and that it is better equipped to deal with complaints.

The landmark agreement marks the first time a company from the theatre industry has become subject to the conditions of a section 23 agreement, EHRC told The Stage.

The terms mean that Rainbow is required to undertake training on sexual harassment, prepare an equality and diversity policy, an anti-harassment policy and disciplinary and grievance procedures.

It must also ensure staff members are aware of the policies and make clear what constitutes acceptable conduct at work.

The company will be monitored by EHRC over the next year. If the commission is not satisfied, it will consider using its wider enforcement powers, which include investigations and court action.

EHRC chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “No one should ever feel threatened or unsafe in their working environment. It is up to the employers to protect their staff from sexual harassment in the workplace. Where organisations are failing to do this, we will step in and ensure action is taken.”

She added: “We are pleased that Rainbow recognises that more needs to be done to protect its staff and we will continue to work with the company as it puts in place the necessary steps to improve conditions for its staff.”

EHRC said it would be reviewing recent sexual harassment employment tribunal judgements on a rolling basis to determine whether further action was needed, and that several other companies – outside the theatre industry – were currently under consideration.

Recently, the commission entered into an agreement with Caroline Dandridge, whose agency supplied some of the staff working at the President’s Club Dinner. The event was the subject of sexual harassment claims in 2018.