Government responds to the consultation on sexual harassment in the… Jump to main content

Government responds to the consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace

Nearly two years after its launch in July 2019, the Government has published a response to the consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace.

The consultation aimed to gather evidence on whether the current laws for protecting people from sexual harassment in the workplace are effective, including how best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third-party harassment.

The ISM’s submission included suggestions for amending the Equality Act 2010 to provide protection for all freelance musicians, including those who suffer discrimination while ‘depping’.

Our recommendations also included reintroducing rights around third party harassment and an extension to the time limit for bringing discrimination cases under the Equality Act 2010.

The Response


The response is wide-ranging, considering everything from sexual harassment in the workplace to the length of time to bring claims in the tribunal.

Responding directly to the ISM’s concerns raised during consultation, the Government acknowledges that groups such as musicians fall outside of the scope of the Equality Act’s current protections.

However, the response goes on to confirm that broader issues around which groups are covered by the Act will be an aspect of any wider future review of the legislation. Currently, there is no commitment to such a review, so freelancers will continue to be left materially unprotected by the framework.

The Government sets out several steps linked to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace, such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), developing a statutory code of practice and accessible guidance being produced for employers.

Although these steps are welcome, the response is focused on employers and employees, with no recognition that in many workplaces today, there is no employer and indeed no HR department which workers can go to if they feel that they have been badly treated.

In addition, the Government commits itself to bringing forward legislation which will “introduce a duty requiring employers to prevent sexual harassment...to make the workplace safer for everyone”.

However, the commitment to introduce a preventative duty will only be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”, and we are disappointed this is not an immediate priority for Government.

What next?


As musicians begin to re-enter the workplace, we will continue to make the case to Government to widen the legal protections for freelance musicians working in vulnerable settings at the earliest possible opportunity.

This will include the following:

  • We will be asking Government to extend all these measures so that they cover freelancers, an ever-increasing part of the UK workforce.
  • We will be urging Government to extend the time limit for bringing cases under the Equality Act 2010. We note that the Government states that they will look “closely” at extending the limit, but this is an issue which requires immediate action.
  • We will be asking that more is done to protect those who are brave enough to avail themselves of the legislation to ensure that are not victimized or backlisted as a result.
  • We are disappointed by the lack of urgency of a review around the scope of the Equality Act, particularly since the numbers working in the so-called gig economy are growing

    Dignity at Work

    The ISM published the report, Dignity at Work: A survey of discrimination in the music sector, in 2018. Based on approximately 600 responses from across the profession, the report highlighted the high level of discriminatory behaviours and practices, including sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour and discrimination in the music industry.

    Dignity in Study

    On 9 April 2018, ISM joint with Equity and the Musicians’ Union (MU) launched a joint anonymous and confidential survey open to all students over the age of 18 currently studying at a higher education institute, including universities and specialist music, drama and dance colleges.

    Out of the 600 students who responded to the survey, over half of students said they had experienced some sort of incident – many more than one type - in the course of their study, with over 50% choosing not to report their concerns despite a high awareness of processes and procedures in place. Lack of anonymity and protection for students who report, collusion between lecturers, favouritism and bias and cultural issues within higher education institutions were cited as reasons not to report, amongst several others.

    ISM-MU Joint Code of Practice

    The ISM and the Musicians' Union have a joint Code of Practice to help eradicate bullying, harassment and discrimination in the music sector. The Code of Practice is a set of principles that aim to eradicate bullying, harassment, discrimination and other forms of inappropriate behaviour within the sector. 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.