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#MeToo prompts HR rethink in 80% of theatres
More than 80% of theatre organisations polled by The Stage have updated their procedures relating to harassment and bullying in the past 12 months.
A year since the #MeToo movement emerged following allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the theatre industry is facing fresh calls to embed a zero-tolerance stance on inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.
New research by The Stage found that: • 84% of responding organisations have made changes to their policies and procedures concerning harassment and bullying over the past year. • 78% of respondents said the number of grievances reported had neither increased nor decreased over the past 12 months. • Just over half (52%) of respondents have a dedicated member of staff in place for human resources. Changes made by organisations included updating or rewording existing policies, as well as implementing clauses and charters.
Sharing a code of behaviour at the beginning of each production, carrying out additional staff training and introducing a whistle-blowing service were also among measures respondents said they had introduced to tackle harassment.
A study conducted by The Stage and published in January exposed the prevalence of harassment in theatre. More than 40% of industry professionals who responded said they had been bullied and one in three had experienced sexual harassment.
The Stage’s new research heard anonymously from 82 theatre organisations, of varying sizes, which submitted data on their experiences in the wake of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
Organisations with more than 50 staff made up 54% of total respondents, with the second biggest group being those with fewer than 10 employees. Respondents included some of the UK’s largest subsidised and not-for-profit theatres, as well as leading commercial producers and companies.
While the vast majority said they had updated their organisational policy, 16% had not. Among the reasons given were that these companies felt their policies were already “adequate” or “robust”. Some small organisations felt detailed procedures were unnecessary because of their size, or discussed what action to take on a per-production basis.
The survey indicates that companies updating their policies had not led to a rise in the reporting of inappropriate behaviour.
More than three quarters (78%) of respondents said the number of grievances about harassment reported in the past year was the same as that of the previous 12 months.
The organisations that had seen an increase represented 11% of respondents, with a further 11% claiming the number of reported incidents had fallen.
BECTU’s assistant national secretary Helen Ryan described the number of organisations updating their policies as “very encouraging”, but said: “The more regular publicity employers can give to a zero-tolerance stance in this area, the better.”
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She also called for more investment in staff training around harassment and bullying.
Referring to the standstill level of reporting indicated by the research, Ryan said this tallied with BECTU’s experience in the past year but that it was “hard to say whether increased awareness is having a corrective effect”.
Equity said that although individuals were still reportedly scared to speak up about harassment and bullying, “policies and procedures are the first step in changing the culture of fear”.
“[The fear] can only be countered by collective action by the whole industry, and specifically through take-up of our Safe Spaces campaign, an affirmation that we expect would empower more victims and bystanders to confront inappropriate behaviour at the earliest opportunity,” a union spokesman said.
Theatres also claimed the past year had ushered in a change in the conversations around harassment. Chris Stafford, chief executive of
Leicester’s Curve, argued that “many theatres, like Curve, have seen a real shift for the better in how we talk about and address unacceptable behaviour in the workplace”.
Elsewhere,The Stage’s survey asked about HR staffing. Just under half of organisations (48%) said they did not have a member of staff who lists HR as a primary function of their job.
This increased within smaller organisations: 68% of those with fewer than 50 employees said they did not have a dedicated HR staff member.
Stafford said a “dedicated HR function within theatres is crucial” to achieving the further change required. “As an industry we should seek to address how we might better support the 48% of organisations who don’t currently have this invaluable role,” he added.
Long Read: A year on from #MeToo, how much has theatre really changed?, p12-14. Editor’s view, p6
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