Sexual harassment in the workplace

31st January 2018

The Women and Equalities Committee continues its work on sexual harassment. The Committee conducts a one-off evidence session on sexual harassment in the workplace.

Scope of the inquiry:
The Women and Equalities Committee is to consider the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace, including who is most likely to experience it, how cases are handled, and the protections available under the law.

The Committee will want to understand:

  • Groups most at risk of sexual harassment in the workplace
  • Employer responses to reports of sexual harassment
  • Actions that employers can take to tackle sexual harassment
  • Formal and informal resolution
  • The adequacy of the law in this area
  • Guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Evidence given by:

  • Neil Carberry, Managing Director of People and Infrastructure at CBI
  • Clare Murray, Managing Partner, CM Murray LLP
  • Christine Payne, General Secretary, Equity
  • Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Head of Research, CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development)


Questions from Philip Davies MP

Q9          Philip Davies: I want to ask Christine about the point of why sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, given what she was saying. I just wondered whether or not the “casting couch” is still something that exists in your industries.

Christine Payne: Very unfortunately, it has been shown that it does.

Q10        Philip Davies: How widespread is that?

Christine Payne: The Stage newspaper undertook research recently, not specifically about casting but about sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour generally in theatre. That is where it was focusing. It showed that there was a very, very high percentage of inappropriate behaviour, and 70% of what was reported was not resolved and not properly investigated.

In terms of the specifics that you have mentioned and the casting process, there have been improvements, in part because the casting directors have self-organised and have set their own standards. There are two particular organisations, the Casting Directors’ Guild and the Casting Directors Association, and they are both setting standards of good behaviour. In fact, last week, they launched their own code that said that, to be a member of the CDG, you have to adhere to these principles and, if you observe any inappropriate behaviour, you have a duty to report it. One of the very good parts of their code is that all castings should be held in an appropriate workplace, in an appropriate space, and should involve at least three people, including the person being auditioned.

We would like to professionalise that even more. We have produced our own—you may be familiar with it—manifesto for casting, which seeks to identify how you professionalise and improve the casting process. We would not have produced that if we did not think that there were issues to be addressed.

Q11         Philip Davies: Do you think that there are some Harvey Weinsteins out there in UK film, theatre and TV? Do you think there are some people out there who have not been uncovered in the way that he was?

Christine Payne: Slowly but surely, people are being uncovered and they are being investigated.

Q12         Philip Davies: Do you still think that there are some out there in the UK?

Christine Payne: I think it is likely. Do you?

Philip Davies: I have no idea. You are the expert, not me.

Christine Payne: An expert in what? An expert in understanding that this is a very difficult industry for people to report in. That is what has been highlighted. It is very difficult. Of course there may be perpetrators out there, and there may be victims who are too afraid to come forward, but that gives us all the more reason to seek to improve things.

Q13         Philip Davies: One issue that comes out is that there are people out there who know that these things are happening, but nobody says anything or people are too frightened to say anything. With the knowledge of the people you have and the people you represent, are there people out there whom people know about but nobody has yet said anything about publicly?

Christine Payne: Probably.

Q14         Philip Davies: Are there people you know, you have heard about and your members talk about? I am not asking for any names. I am just saying: are there people out there you know, your members know and people talk about?

Christine Payne: It is becoming perfectly clear that there are. There are investigations. People are coming forward quietly and doing the right thing. I do not think it is for me to speculate whether that will go beyond those we have already identified.

Q15         Chair: I think Philip is voicing a frustration we all have, when people like the chief executive of the EHRC say, “Sexual harassment is rife across all our industries”, and yet we are not, as Members of Parliament, necessarily getting the details of that so that we can make sure that action takes place. That is what we are keen to see: these problems being surfaced, rather than being written off, as Clare said, as something you just have to put up with.

Christine Payne: If the question is, “Has this union dealt with allegations and claims of sexual harassment over the years?”, the answer is yes.

Chair: Brilliant.

Christine Payne: I am not prepared to say more than that because obviously it is a confidential matter, but the answer is yes.