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Hoc Women and Equalities Committee: Government ‘Falling Short’ Over Action to Help Protect Women in the Music Industry From Harassment and Discrimination, Wec Warns

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The Government has rejected recommendations to help protect women in the music industry from harassment and discrimination despite unequivocal backing from the creative industries watchdog CIISA and a myriad of female voices speaking out across the sector.

In its response to WEC’s landmark January report on ‘Misogyny in Music’, the Government said it is “clear that everyone should be able to work in the music industry without being subject to misogyny and discrimination”.

However, it stopped short of accepting the cross-party Committee’s wide-ranging recommendations to transform industry protections, despite WEC’s warning women pursuing careers in music face “endemic” misogyny and discrimination in a sector dominated by self-employment and gendered power imbalances.

WEC had called on ministers to take legislative steps to amend the Equality Act to ensure freelance workers have the same protections from discrimination as employees and bring into force section 14 to improve protections for people facing intersectional inequality.

It also recommended the Government should legislate to impose a duty on employers to protect workers from sexual harassment by third parties, a proposal the Government initially supported and then rejected last year. The Government also failed to give assurances that it would extend the time limit for bringing Equality Act-based claims to an employment tribunal from three to six months as recommended by the Committee.

On non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), the report cited distressing testimonies of victims “threatened into silence”, with WEC urging ministers to prohibit the use of non-disclosure and other forms of confidentiality agreements in cases involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination relating to a protected characteristic. The Government plans to bring in such measures in higher education but did not support the Committee’s recommendation to do so for music or other sectors despite the compelling evidence presented by the Committee.

Responding, the Government said the Committee’s inquiry “has been important in voicing concerns from across the music industry and for championing equality” adding: “The Government maintains that everyone should be able to work without being subject to misogyny and discrimination.”

But it said it had “no plans to implement the dual discrimination provision in the Equality Act 2010 at this time”, adding “there could be unintended consequences” from a retrospective moratorium on non-disclosure agreements.

On CIISA, it said: “The Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority has arisen from a clear need to address concerns and set standards so there is clarity around expectations and a single point of accountability for where creative industry professionals can go when these standards are not met…

“The Government will continue to engage constructively with the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority as it develops its proposals. Should the Authority identify any legal barriers that may impact its service delivery, the Government is willing to discuss this.”

Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP said:

“The Committee’s report laid bare a “boys’ club” where sexual harassment and abuse is common and where ‘endemic’ misogyny has persisted for far too long.

Following its shocking findings, women across the music industry have spoken out in the clearest possible terms about the need for transformative change. Improving protections and reporting mechanisms through necessary legislative and structural reforms are essential steps to achieving that.

Ministers are letting women down with their feet dragging over NDAs. We have had platitudes and reassurance, but still no action despite evidence that the use of NDAs is rife, in far too many sectors, and they are being used to protect perpetrators and silence victims.

It is welcome that the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority (CIISA) supports the recommendations made in the report and the Office for Students (OfS) is consulting on new regulatory requirements to tackle sexual misconduct in higher education.

WEC is calling on the Government to re-think its stance, equip CIISA with the powers required to drive the changes needed or risk falling short over the action needed to protect women in the music industry from harassment and discrimination.”

WEC will be holding a follow-up evidence session relating to its Misogyny in Music report with CIISA and the OfS on Wednesday, 24 April at 2.20pm in Committee Room 6 in Parliament.

Watch live.

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