You are currently using an unsupported web browser. For the best experience using the Talent Manager website please consider upgrading your browser.


More than half of freelancers do not report incidents of sexual harassment due to job insecurity, according to Bectu research.

The union has set up a sexual harassment helpline as it reveals that 92% of creatives working in TV, film and theatre have witnessed or experienced harassment on the basis of their sex or gender – and one in five have experienced a serious assault at work.

Describing the issue as a “scourge on the creative industries” with a “broken” system for reporting incidents, Bectu is calling on the creative industry to support the newly-established Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority, which aims to investigate and prevent harassment.

Among the freelancers polled, 59% said they did not report incidents because they were worried it might lose them work and 71% that it would negatively impact their career – compared to 30% of full-time staff.

Less than a quarter said they felt confident about reporting any incidents in the workplace and in general, 84% said it is harder to report incidents as a freelancer.

Of those who left their job rather than report harassment, 31% were in full time employment and 69% were freelancers.

One film and TV freelancer quoted in the report listed a litany of incidents, including “unwanted touching”, a presenter showing them pornography, and a male crew member masturbating the women’s toilets. They said they had lost work due to being a woman.

Another said freelancers have “zero rights or stability” and are perceived as “an unnecessary pain in an already stretched production” if they complain.

“[They] will just quietly find that their contract is not renewed or they are not rehired next time around,” they said. “With so many out of work, it’s far easier to hire the person who will not make a fuss.”

Shifting the dial

Bectu said that despite the high-profile coverage of the allegations against Russell Brand, there has not been enough done to “shift the dial”.

Just 13% of respondents felt confident that enough is being done to deter unwanted behaviour in the workplace, while 14% said employer responses had improved in the wake of high-profile cases.

Many respondents said they felt disposable compared to performers or ‘talent’ that they worked with.

In terms of perpetrators, a colleague was identified as the most common, by 64%, followed by a senior figure (55%) or the person’s manager or head of department (26%).

For half of those surveyed, the incidents had happened at a work social event.

One freelancer working in unscripted TV said they left at the end of their contract after a senior manager witnessed a colleague forcibly kiss them at a work social event. The colleague, a “known offender”, was given a senior position.

Bectu had Philippa Childs called for a “radical step-change” in tackling the issue.

“While it’s been pleasing to see organisations from across the sector signal their support for the Creative Industries Independent Standards Authority, this needs to now be backed up by meeting CIISA’s financial ask of no more than 0.1% of organisations’ annual UK turnover,” she said. “This will be critical to ensure the authority moves from its development to operational phase.

“The mental toll and wide-reaching impacts of workplace sexual harassment can be absolutely devastating. Employers across the creative industries must take a much more proactive, leading role in ensuring the sector is a safe, mentally healthy and respectful place to work for everyone, including freelancers and behind the scenes workers.”

To access Bectu’s sexual harassment support service, email or call 020 7902 6647 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. For more details, click here

The union also offers a downloadable guide to dealing with workplace harassment

Need Help?