UK Time’s Up, a charity committed to the eradication of bullying and harassment in the creative sector, has proposed the idea for an Independent Standards Authority, developed in collaboration with legal law firm Fieldfisher and its partners Jill Greenfield and Sarah Ellson, to respond to these specific concerns. One of the most challenging gaps being the protection of freelancers, the self-employed and those on short term and informal contracts.
Representatives from the MU were invited to many of the roundtable meetings, and used the opportunity to discuss some of the cases the Union has been involved in - specifically where freelance members have not have an employer or engager in which to report to.
MU General Secretary Naomi Pohl said:
"After years of campaigning to prevent sexual harassment in the music industry, the establishment of an Independent Standards Authority is a significant step forward. While it won't be available in music initially, we will be pushing for the inclusion of our sector as soon as possible.
"We know many musicians who have experienced sexual harassment, particularly where there wasn't a single employer or engager to report to or a formal policy in place, will welcome this news. In cases where freelancers in the creative industries experience inappropriate behaviour, harassment or abuse, there will be somewhere to go for a full investigation and we hope some form of justice".
She also added:
"It has been very difficult to achieve justice in many of the cases we have dealt with because the law and infrastructure are not there for the freelance community. Despite these barriers, we have provided support, advice and in many cases taken action on behalf of hundreds of survivors.
"The Union will be keeping a keen eye on how the ISA operates in film and TV. In the meantime, we are here to support anyone in the music industry who wants to discuss their own experiences. We will also continue to push for the Government to change the law."
Last week we also reported that during April’s Scottish TUC Congress in Aberdeen, MU member Rab Noakes moved motion 64, which calls on the STUC’s General Council to lobby government to improve reporting processes for women who experience sexual harassment and all those who witness sexual harassment.
History and context of the proposal
In the Spring of 2021, the then DCMS Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, and Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, met with the singer/songwriter Rebecca Ferguson to hear about her experience of bullying, harassment, and abuse, whilst working in the music industry.
Following this meeting, Oliver Dowden asked Caroline Norbury MBE, Chief Executive of Creative UK (the membership body for the creative industries), to convene and chair a cross-industry group with representation from the creative industries to agree a plan of action to tackle bullying, harassment, and abuse. Representatives included the music, TV, film, theatre, advertising, video games, and fashion sectors, including representatives from The MU.
At their first meeting in June 2021, attendees agreed to ensure codes of practice were in place for each sub sector; existing support and signposting was improved and simplified; and commitments were made regarding the development of training and standards to ensure culture change was accelerated.
The proposal for the Independent Standards Authority will bring together expertise and advice and, crucially, will have the ability to investigate and drive accountability. Currently, where an individual has suffered harassment after a production has concluded, they have limited or unclear places to report, and the person complained against has no due process, leaving only media exposure which can result in cancellation of shows and the loss of work for so many with neither the survivor nor the “alleged offender” being afforded a just hearing.
As well as conducting investigations, the Independent Standards Authority will also offer mediation services as many survivors do not want a formal investigation. It will also be able to offer insight and good practice from the learning that derives as well as identify gaps in provision
For practical reasons, during the first phase of establishing the independent standards authority the remit will initially cover film and TV, with the wider creative industries joining subsequently.
Musicians who experience or witness sexual harassment at work are encouraged to report it to the MU’s Safe Space service in confidence.