Protecting musicians from discrimination, bullying and harassment Jump to main content

Protecting musicians from discrimination, bullying and harassment

The ISM’s major new report, Dignity at work 2: Discrimination in the music sector exposes the devastating scale of discrimination (including sexual harassment and racism) in all parts of the music sector, including education.

The following advice sets out expectations on ISM members and organisations in the music sector as well as providing practical steps which can be taken.

Expectations on ISM members

The ISM believes that everyone, whether employed or self-employed, is entitled to be treated fairly, appropriately and accorded dignity while at work or at study. Discrimination and harassment of any kind are unacceptable. This is set out in the ISM Dignity at Work Code of Practice which applies to all members and provides appropriate standards of behaviour in the workplace and education establishments. As part of the Code of Practice ISM members accept the following:

  • They will not engage in any behaviour which could be contrary to the Equality Act 2010 and will treat with dignity and respect all persons whether in a working or educational environment.
  • They must not use or encourage discriminatory language or gestures whether face to face or in any media in any working or educational environment.
  • They must avoid unwanted physical contact as such behaviour could constitute harassment or a criminal offence.
  • They should never take advantage, inadvertently or otherwise, of any authority or power which accrues to their position.

The ISM will invoke their Disciplinary Procedure where necessary if a member fails to comply with the provisions set out in the ISM Dignity at Work Code of Practice. If an ISM member engages in conduct which does not comply with the Code of Practice this should be reported to the ISM by calling 020 7221 3499.

ISM expectations on organisations

The ISM and MU issued a set of principles to tackle and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination which have been adopted by over 120 organisations. The ISM believes that all music sector organisations should commit to these principles and put them into practice. The principles include:

  • Implement and promoting appropriate policies, procedures and complaints processes to protect everyone – including freelancers and students.
  • Encouraging appropriate behaviour within an organisation and in networks.
  • Opposing bullying harassment and discrimination and not tolerating such behaviour. Taking reports of bullying seriously and handling them sensitively.
  • Putting in place adequate protection for complainants and ensuring those who make complaints or participate in good faith in investigations are not subject to reprisal or victimisation. Taking appropriate action against perpetrators where bullying, harassment or discrimination is proved to have occurred.

These principles also aim to aid employers in meeting their legal requirements as well as setting out a shared vision for promoting and maintaining a positive working culture. If an organisation is not complying with the principles then please contract the ISM for further support.

Steps which can be taken by ISM members

The ISM knows from its research that many musicians report that they have been the victim of discrimination (66% of respondents in the most recent ISM survey). Whilst it may be difficult to eradicate such behaviours within the music sector and wider society there may be steps which musicians can take to look at risks and how these may be minimised.

Those who are classified as employees or workers and some self-employed people

Those who are self-employed

Private Music Teachers

What to do if an incident of discrimination or sexual harassment occurs

If an incident occurs then you should attempt to remove yourself to a place of safety.

It is important that you try and take a note of what has happened as soon as possible after any incident has occurred and while the incident is still fresh in your mind.

Seek advice from the ISM legal team as soon as you can by calling 020 7221 3499 or emailing legal[email protected] Time limits for taking claims under the Equality Act 2010 are short: three months from the date of any discriminatory incident.

Ascertain who you can report any incident to within any organisation that you are working with; this could be an HR department or your line manager if you are an employee or a worker or the manager of an orchestra that you are performing with. If you report anything orally then make sure you follow it up in writing.

If you witness an incident then you can also play a part in reporting it, recording it or intervening to protect a fellow musician. See the link to Stand Up Against Street Harassment below.

If the incident amounts to a sexual offence then report the matter to the police immediately by calling 999 or by calling 101 at a later time.

Further information and support

Further information on discrimination, sexual harassment and safety at work:

Suzy Lamplugh Trust

Equality, Advisory and Support Service

The Equality and Human Rights Commission


Citizens Advice Bureau

Stand Up Against Street Harassment

Support lines for victims of sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination include:

ISM members can access a free 24-hour personal support and advice line on: 0800 042 0136
Help Musicians: Bullying and Harassment Helpline: 0800 088 2045
Victim Support

The Samaritans

The Police - call 999 if you or someone is in immediate danger or the crime is in progress