Minister Humphreys announces a suite of measures on workplace harassment in the arts and culture sector
- Minister and the Arts Council to meet with theatre leaders who co-signed statement on harassment
- Minister collaborating with the Arts Council to facilitate an industry-wide consultation at our National Theatre
- Measures announced relating to bodies answering directly to the Minister’s Department
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, today (Thursday), announced a suite of measures on sexual harassment and abuse of power in the workplace in the arts and culture sector, including specific initiatives in conjunction with the Arts Council.
Firstly, the Minister has invited the group of eight leaders from Irish theatre organisations, who recently co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre in Ireland, to meet with her and the Arts Council next week.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways in which the Department and the Arts Council together can support the sector in creating a safe culture and environment for those working in the industry. The meeting will provide a platform for discussion, debate and ideas.
Minister Humphreys said: “I believe that my Department, the Arts Council and the leading members of theatre organisations should work together to encourage a safe and respectful environment free from abuse of power and sexual harassment. Individually, there are limits on what we can do – working together we can achieve our shared objectives.
The Minister has also been engaging with the Chair of the Abbey Theatre this week. She continued:
“Arising from conversations with the Abbey Theatre, I will also be collaborating with our National Theatre to facilitate an industry-wide consultation exercise that will be held in partnership with the Arts Council. Our hope is to hold the consultation by the end of the month.”
Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council said: “The Arts Council is committed in its strategy, ‘Making Great Art Work’, to improving the living and working conditions of artists. What we have heard over the last number of days is that organisations need to be supported to ensure that the right conditions are in place for all artists and those working in the arts sector.
“We look forward to working together with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the sector to better understand the supports that are needed to ensure best practice in the arts sector.”
Separately, the Minister has identified a number of actions that she proposes to take in relation to bodies reporting directly to her Department. The bodies in question include our National Cultural Institutions and state agencies.
While legally, the Boards of National Cultural Institutions and agencies are responsible for good governance practice, the Minister’s intention is to help boards fulfil their functions more effectively, and to support them in ensuring that policies in relation to equality and respect in the workforce operate effectively in line with best practice.
She has instructed her Department to undertake the following actions:
- Arrange separate dedicated workshops for board members and senior staff of bodies reporting to the Department.
The workshops will deal with governance in general, with a particular focus on the role of the board, the board’s relationship with the executive and their respective legal responsibilities. There will be a particular emphasis on issues relating to bullying, abuse of power and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Minister will also extend an invitation to all other cultural organisations and arts centres around the country to avail of similar training. The training will be delivered to interested parties at a series of regional information days.
- Highlight once again to bodies reporting to the Department the nature of their legal obligations, by immediately writing to them to seek assurances of their compliance with obligations under employment legislation (the Employment Equality Acts, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, and the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice) (Harassment) Order 2012).
In any event, they are required to give these assurances in the annual report of their accounts, but in light of recent events in the sector, the intention is to shine a light on these obligations.
- Accelerate a planned review of compliance by bodies reporting to the Department with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.
Minister Humphreys said: “In recent times, there have been a number of alarming allegations and reports of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace relating to the arts community. While all workplaces are obliged to comply with employment legislation, I have identified a number of actions that I can take as Minister in relation to the bodies reporting to my Department.
“More broadly, the initiatives I am announcing today with the Arts Council are intended to facilitate the entire sector to work collectively to drive out unacceptable behaviour. Following the engagement between the Department, the Arts Council and the leading theatre organisations next week, I will be happy to address any further issues that are raised in our discussions.”
Notes to the Editor
(i) Joint-Statement from Irish Theatre Organisations
The following theatre leaders were co-signatories to a recent statement on sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre world. The Minister has invited them to meet with her together with the Arts Council next week.
- Abbey Theatre – Graham McLaren & Neil Murray
- Druid Theatre – Garry Hynes
- Dublin Fringe Festival – Kris Nelson
- Dublin Theatre Festival – Willie White
- Gate Theatre – Selina Cartmell
- Project Arts Centre – Cian O’Brien
- Rough Magic Theatre Company – Lynne Parker
The joint-statement can be accessed here: https://www.abbeytheatre.ie/joint-statement-irish-theatre-organisations/
(ii) List of bodies reporting directly to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
- Arts Council
- Chester Beatty Library
- Crawford Art Gallery
- Foras na Gaeilge
- Heritage Council
- Irish Film Board
- Irish Museum of Modern Art
- National Concert Hall
- National Gallery of Ireland
- National Library of Ireland
- National Museum of Ireland
- The Boord o Ulster Scotch
- Údarás na Gaeltachta
- Waterways Ireland
(iii) Legal background (Employment Law)
- All employers in Ireland are obliged under the provisions of Employment Equality Acts 1998-2011 to prevent harassment, including sexual harassment, in the workplace.
- It is also recognised that bullying in the workplace can impact upon the health, safety and welfare of staff and, under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers have a duty to prevent any improper conduct or behaviour which is likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk.
- This obliges senior management, and line managers, to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to ensure a work environment free of bullying, harassment or sexual harassment.
- This includes developing an anti-bullying policy, and dealing with established complaints of bullying in the workplace. Employers are required to deal with complaints as a priority issue.
- The Health and Safety Authority and the Labour Relations Commission have also produced codes of practice on dealing with bullying in the workplace.
- There is also a specific code of practice on harassment set out in a statutory instrument, the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice) (Harassment) Order 2012 (S.I. No. 208 of 2012).
- This contains a number of obligations for employers, such as ensuring that accessible and effective policies and procedures are in place and are accessible to staff, and to ensure that natural justice and impartiality are adhered to during investigations.
- This also sets out an obligation for employers to take reasonably practicable steps to prevent bullying, harassment or sexual harassment in the workplace, to reverse the effects of it, and to take reasonable steps to prevent its re-occurrence.
- Under the legislation, the onus is on the employer to have in place the necessary policies and procedures.
- Where complainants are not satisfied with outcomes under these procedures, they have access to the normal labour relations mechanisms through the Workplace Relations Committee.
- These obligations apply to employers in all sectors.