Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Interim report on sexual harassment

31 January 2018

Maureen Beattie

Equity has released its interim report on the sexual harassment crisis and it focuses on employers, workplaces, agents, casting, education and the law.

The final report and the list of actions will be released later in February, but the union’s interim Agenda for Change covers:

  • Castings should be held in appropriate and recognised work spaces and should never involve only an actor and casting director/director but should include at least one third party.
  • Drama schools should have their own robust codes of conduct regarding harassment, as well as preparing students for the world of work including teaching them how to deal with conflict and harassment in the entertainment industry.
  • Employers should identify a properly trained ‘go to’ person with whom problems can be raised. Boards should also do everything appropriate to support workers, including recognising the importance of gender balance in improving organisational culture. Equity will be working with employers to ensure their codes of conduct are in place, enforced and publicised in all workplaces.
  • Investigate the different types of Non-Disclosure Agreements and other release forms that are increasingly a part of the contracts our members are asked to sign, by way of ascertaining which of these are protecting our members and which are potentially protecting perpetrators of harassment.
  • Equity itself has committed to rolling out an awareness campaign that will include: a visible presence at every audition and workplace, training and a dedicated Equity Helpline.

Maureen Beattie, actor and Equity’s Vice President, (pictured) who led the union’s working group on sexual harassment said: “Sexual harassment has been in the marrow of our industry, but we are going to make it so utterly unacceptable that even the most hardline harassers will refrain from moving in on someone. There has been a culture of fear in our business that has been holding people back from getting support. Members need to be reassured that the union is here for them and we will fight tooth and nail to make changes in the workplace.”

Christine Payne, Equity General Secretary, said: “The perpetrators of sexual harassment are often – but not always – in positions of power and influence. They have survived because members are afraid to say anything; because of the fear of how this might impact on the job they are doing – or future work. The perpetrators prey on the insecurity of the profession and in particular our members working in it. They make our members feel indebted and vulnerable. We have to give our members the strength to stand up to the perpetrators and reassure them that they will not stand alone.”

Background on the Sexual Harassment Working Group 
Equity’s working group on sexual harassment was formed in November 2017 and was led by Maureen Beattie, actor and Equity Vice President. One of the first acts of the group was to remind all members that the union has always dealt with sexual harassment issues and it will listen to any concerns a member has. It also asked all members for three suggestions they felt could make a difference. More than 340 members put forward their ideas. It held a series of meetings with relevant industry bodies. These included Directors UK, Stage Directors’ UK, the Stage Management Association, Equal Representation for Actresses, Women in Film and TV, the Federation of Drama Schools, One Dance UK, the Personal Managers Association, the Casting Directors’ Guild, UK Theatre/SOLT, ITC (Independent Theatre Council), the ISM (Incorporated Society of Musicians), the British Film Institute and the Old Vic. 

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