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We all want to work in an industry free from sexual harassment. Speaking up about sexual harassment at work is a major issue. Many musicians don’t report their experiences because of fear of not being believed, fear of damaging their careers or because they’ll find it difficult to challenge workplace cultures.

One of the barriers that our research identified, is that a lack of reporting mechanisms is a barrier to tackling sexual harassment at work. This was especially true for freelancers who are often not included in workplace policies or are not made aware of them.

Playing your part in tackling sexual harassment

Having a policy in place is a proactive step you can take to tackle sexual harassment and encourage a culture where people speak up. The MU recommends having a stand-alone sexual harassment policy that sits within your wider Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI) policies.

Having a policy in place means that people know that if they report any instances they will be heard, supported and that the situation will be dealt with effectively.

A good policy should be simple, straight-forward and communicated to everyone working in or with your venue/organisation.

Things to think about in relation to your sexual harassment policy

  • Is everyone, including freelancers, aware of the sexual harassment policy?
  • Have people designated to deal with reports of sexual harassment been adequately trained? Good night Out run training sessions that help people to respond to reports of sexual harassment.
  • Are the people dealing with sexual harassment gender balanced?
  • Have you displayed signage which encourages people to report? (link to poster)

Our guidance on appropriate behaviour at work also contains useful information for those looking to challenge inappropriate behaviour and promote good practice.

Creating a sexual harassment policy

An effective sexual harassment policy should include the following:

The sexual harassment policy guidance below is a starting point that will help you create a policy to meet your venues/organisation’s needs, working through section by section.

Policy statement

This section should state your venue/organisations commitment to providing a workplace free from sexual harassment.

Policy statement could read like this:

(name of your venue or organisation) is committed to creating a workplace free from sexual harassment and will not tolerate harassment by or against employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, volunteers or other third parties.

This policy aims to protect all people working at (name of venue or organisation) from sexual harassment, give them guidelines to report incidents, explain how we handle reports of sexual harassment and help people who experience it recover. (name of venue or organisation) will take all reports seriously and address them promptly.

A definition of sexual harassment

Your policy should include a definition of sexual harassment so that people are aware of what types of behaviour are unacceptable. Some people have incorrect assumptions about what constitutes sexual harassment. It is best practice to include a definition of sexual harassment and a list of behaviours.

Definition of sexual harassment section could read like this:

Sexual harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviour of a sexual nature that has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

This could include but is not limited to:

  • Sexual comments or jokes
  • Unwelcome sexual advances, touching, and various forms of sexual assault
  • Displaying photos, pictures, or drawings of a sexual nature
  • Sending messages, emails etc. with sexual content
  • Sexual harassment can include verbal, non-verbal and physical acts
  • Making promises in return for sexual favours
  • Intrusive questions about a person’s sex life, and discussing your own sex life
  • Treating someone less favourably because they have submitted or refused to submit to such behaviour in the past
  • Continued suggestions for social activity after it has been made clear that such suggestions are unwelcome.

Something can still be considered sexual harassment even if the alleged harasser did not mean for it to be. It also does not have to be intentionally directed at a specific person.

Scope of the policy

Your policy should make clear who is expected to comply with it. You should include employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, volunteers and third parties.

The scope could read like this:

This policy applies to everyone working at (name of venue or organisation) including employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, volunteers and third parties. This policy on sexual harassment also applies at off-site gatherings or anywhere else you are representing (name of venue/organisation).

This policy does not form part of anyone’s contract of employment/terms of engagement with (name of venue/organisation) and (name of venue/organisation) may amend it at any time.

Reporting an incident

Your policy should set out how people can report any incident of sexual harassment and confirm the named person/people to report incidents to.

It’s best practice, where possible, to have multiple people, ideally gender balanced, who are empowered to deal with reports of sexual harassment and an anonymous method of reporting.

You should also use this section to encourage people to report and reassure that all reports will be taken seriously.

Reporting an incident section could read like this:

All reports of sexual harassment will be taken seriously and handled sensitively. Experiencing or witnessing sexual harassment is often extremely distressing. (name of venue/organisation) aims to support people who make reports and make reporting as straight forward as possible.

If you experience sexual harassment or witness another person being sexually harassed, please report it to (Insert the name, position and contact details of multiple people who are empowered to deal with incidents of sexual harassment). You can also report any instances of sexual harassment anonymously via (details of anonymous reporting mechanism)

If you report sexual assault to the police, (name of venue/organisation) will provide all possible support until the matter is resolved.

If you do not feel safe reporting to (name of venue/organisation) directly then you should contact the Musicians’ Union Safe Space Scheme for assistance musafespace.org.uk

Employees, freelancers and volunteers can also report to a third-party, such as their Trade Union if they would prefer.

Third party harassment

Harassment from third parties can be difficult to deal with, and is a particular issue for music venues. Harassment by audience members is an issue that our research highlighted so it is important to cover how this would be dealt with in your policy. You should include a specific section on this issue.

This section could read like this:

If you experience sexual harassment by a “third party” (eg an audience member) you should report this behaviour to (insert the name, position and contact details of multiple people who are empowered to deal with incidents of sexual harassment) so they can deal with the alleged harasser.

Reporting the harasser means that we can deal with situation and protect other people who would have come in contact with them.

The complaints procedure

In this section you should set out how your organisation or venue will deal with reports of sexual harassment. You should include:

  • Informal resolutions
  • Formal resolutions
  • Investigations
  • Appeals
  • Confidentiality
  • Training

Providing step-by-step information will encourage people to report, because you are being transparent about the process. You should also make it clear that the views of the person reporting will be considered before any decisions are made or action is taken.

You will not be able to predict every situation or cover it in this policy, but you do need to include enough information to be open and transparent.

The complaints procedure section could read like this:

If (name of organisation/venue) receives a report of sexual harassment, or if we suspect sexual harassment is taking place, we will immediately investigate and address the allegations.

Informal complaints

Employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, and volunteers who experience or witness sexual harassment will be given the option of resolving the matter informally in the first instance.

Formal complaints

Employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, and volunteers will be given the option to make a formal complaint through disciplinary and grievance procedures if they wish to do so or if informal action fails to resolve the situation.

Investigations

Any meetings will be held as soon as possible after a complaint is received. Investigations may include:

  • Collecting as many details as possible
  • Choosing an appropriate investigator
  • Conducting interviews with witnesses, the alleged harasser and other related parties
  • Gathering and documenting digital evidence

Following the investigation

Decisions and any action taken to resolve the complaint will be communicated to the person reporting and the alleged harasser as soon as possible.

Appeals

You have the right to appeal against decisions made as a result of the complaint. Appeals will be dealt with impartially and, wherever possible, by someone who has not previously dealt with the complaint.

Confidentiality

Employees, casual workers and agency workers, freelancers, and volunteers who make complaints or who are part of an investigation will not suffer any form of victimisation as a result. Details of any complaint will be processed in accordance with the UK General Data Protection Regulations (UK GDPR).

Any breaches of confidentiality will be treated in a serious manner and dealt with under the disciplinary and grievance procedure.

Training

Training will be provided for those employees who have a specific responsibility for implementing this policy or who may be involved in dealing with complaints which arise.

For further guidance on challenging inappropriate behaviour at work, and promoting good practice – see our Appropriate Behaviour at Work guidance.

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