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Equity launches dedicated helpline as report on sexual harassment is released

The performing arts union has released its findings on the sexual harassment in the industry

Maureen Beattie, vice president of Equity
© Paul Stuart

Equity, the union representing 43,000 creative workers in the theatre industry, has released its Agenda for Change report, which focuses on sexual harassment.

The union announced today that it would be launching a Safe Space campaign, which includes setting up a dedicated helpline. The campaign will also include advice and training, while productions will be encouraged to read out a statement as rehearsals begin.

As previously reported, guidelines for the Agenda for Change include making sure casting directors actively discourage one-to-one meetings in non-professional environments.

Included in the guidelines is the stipulation that auditions should not include requests to undress in whole or in part unless a mutually agreed observer is present and auditions should not include requests to perform simulated sex acts.

The union makes a promise to explore the different types of Non-Disclosure Agreements and other release forms which are increasingly a part of the contracts actors are asked to sign.

There are also plans to lobby to change the law on the time limit for lodging a claim of sexual harassment from three months to at least six.

Maureen Beattie, Equity's vice president said: "This report represents an opportunity to harness the energy released by the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and rethink the way we deal with sexual harassment in the entertainment industry.

"I've suffered sexual harassment in my career, both as a victim and as a bystander, and it is my fervent hope that the work that follows this report will lead to a future where no-one has to suffer harassment of any kind, ever again. If we are to create a workplace truly without fear it is imperative the industry accepts the recommendations in this report."

Equity's working group on sexual harassment was formed in November 2017 and more than 340 union members put forward their ideas for the report. Equity held a series of meetings with relevant industry bodies including Directors UK, Stage Directors' UK, the Stage Management Association, Equal Representation for Actresses, Women in Film and TV and the Federation of Drama Schools.