An Introduction to Sexual Harassment and Policy – FREE RESOURCE

TRIGGER WARNING – For most recent and up to date version, click here.


*Disclaimer: this has been drafted using third party resources in an effort to educate. If you have any questions, please seek professional assistance from a qualified individual or organisation. The information in this post is for dissemination and may be used by anyone with due acknowledgement. Do not use for commercial purposes.

Curated by Natalie Greener as part of practice in Creative Management and Cultural Liaison.

Artwork by MEGMCART as part of the Called Out campaign.

Live entertainment can be experimental, exploratory and bold; but our creative spaces must also be safe for all who use them. Arts institutions applicable must adopt a zero-tolerance approach for any form of harassment at work, including sexual harassment. A policy applies to employees, freelance staff, independent artists and all others that they work with. It covers sexual harassment [SH] which occurs at work and out of the workplace, such as on business trips or at work-related events, or social functions. It covers SH by staff (which may include consultants, contractors/freelancers and agency workers) and also by third parties such as customers, suppliers or visitors.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is defined as ‘unwanted’ conduct of a sexual nature, which has the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a worker, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

Sexual harassment is unlawful under section 26 of the Equality Act 2010.

The conduct need not be sexually motivated, only sexual in nature. For example, a worker alters a pornographic image by pasting an image of their colleague’s face onto it and then sends this to their other colleagues as a joke. There was no sexual motivation behind this act but the use of the image is sexual in nature.

A single incident is enough to be considered sexual harassment – it does not have to be repeated behaviour.

In terms of whether conduct is ‘unwanted’, you should never rely solely on non-verbal cues, i.e. facial expressions and body language, as consent for sexual behaviour. Consent should be verbal and explicit. Note that sexual conduct that has been welcomed in the past can become unwanted.Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Sexual comments which could be about a person’s appearance or body parts
  • Sexualjokesorquestionsaboutaperson’ssexlife
  • Suggestions that the professional position a person holds or achieves is the result of sexual attractiveness or activity
  • Leering, whistling or staring
  • Sharing sexually inappropriate images or video such as pornography
  • Sending emails, texts, apps or social media messages, notes or letters of a sexual nature
  • Promises in return for sexual favours
  • Threats (of any types e.g. career damage) if sexual favours are not granted
  • Unwelcome physical contact including touching, hugging, massaging or kissing
  • Sexual assault


The following actions are never appropriate:

  • Initiating unwanted physical contact, i.e. touching legs, arms, hands, faces or intimate body parts of other people.
  • Sending unwanted and overly personal or suggestive communications to a colleague.
  • Requesting or suggesting sexual favours as a means to promotion or salary increases.
  • Basing a person’s career opportunities, e.g. hiring and promoting, on their physical attractiveness.
  • Verbally or otherwise sexually objectifying a person’s body by using innuendos, suggestive or lewd comments or otherwise.
  • Asking personal or intimate questions about a person’s clothing choices.
  • Asking a person about their sexual habits, experiences, sexuality or gender.
  • Exploiting or wielding your power over another person.
  • Excusing a person’s inappropriate behaviour because:
    • of their position, e.g. regular customer, senior staff member;
    • that’s ‘just the way they are’ or that’s ‘just their humour’;
    • of their gender;
    • of their sexual orientation;
    • the harassment was not physical; or
    • of impaired thinking due to drug or alcohol use.

Note that this list is not exhaustive and will be reassessed and added to over time.
As mentioned previously, sexual harassment can also occur through electronic means, employees are subject to the same rules about sexual harassment in the virtual world as they are in the real world.

Anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment, regardless of their sex and of the sex of the harasser, and may also occur between people of the same sex.

Resources for Sexual Harassment Guidance and Proactive Response:

Please email any feedback to, Creative Manager and Cultural Agent head of this research and Director of Tits Upon Tyne CIC. Studying an MA at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

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