Women and Equalities Committee publish Government response to report on sexual harassment in the workplace

The Women and Equalities Committee has today published the Government response to the committee’s report on sexual harassment in the workplace.

In summary, the Government:

  • agrees that a statutory code of practice should be introduced and states that it will work with the EHRC to develop it. However, ministers have not agreed, at this stage, to introduce a duty on employers to protect workers from harassment and victimisation, or to increase sanctions for poor employer practices.
  • agrees that non-disclosure agreements require better regulation and a clearer explanation of the rights that a worker cannot abrogate by signing one and commits to consult on how best to achieve this and enforce any new provisions.
  • agrees that regulators should make it clear that workplace sexual harassment is unacceptable, and that sexual harassment should be taken into account when considering the fitness and propriety of the individuals and employers they regulate.
  • agrees that employers “should have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect their staff from third party harassment where they know that their staff are at risk” and proposes to consult on “how best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third party harassment”.
  • states that it will amend whistleblowing law to make the EHRC a prescribed organisation and will consider further whether to add the police to the list.
  • agrees to work with Acas, the EHRC and employers to raise awareness of appropriate workplace behaviours and individual rights.
  • agrees to gather regular data on the prevalence and nature of workplace sexual harassment at least every three years, with a view to launching survey questions in 2019.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians and founder of the Dignity at Work campaign said:

‘Our research, including our report Dignity at Work has revealed a worryingly high level of discriminatory behaviours and practices, including sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour and discrimination relating to all nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010, in our music sector.

The music sector has a high level of self-employed workers which makes them particularly vulnerable. Very often they do not have access to the protection and support mechanisms which are to be found in more traditional employment. As a consequence this highly talented but vulnerable workforce is afraid of reporting their experiences for fear of victimisation and losing work opportunities.

This fear of reporting needs to be tackled. We are encouraged by the fact the Government is taking steps to ensure that interns and volunteers are covered by the Equality Act 2010, but this must be extended to depping musicians – specifically under section 83(2) of the Act.

We are also encouraged by the news that the Government is proposing to consult on laws in relation to third party discrimination and we will respond to consultations as appropriate.

The risk of musicians losing work because they report sexual harassment, discrimination or bullying must end now.’