The ISM and The Musicians’ Union launch industry code of practice


  • The ISM and the Musicians’ Union (MU), which jointly represent the interests of the UK’s professional musicians, have launched a set of principles to ‘tackle and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination in the music sector’
  • Both organisations call for the entire music sector to support and adopt principles in the workplace
  • 86% of respondents from ISM’s Dignity at work report called for a sector-wide Code to address behavioural issues

The ISM and the MU have launched a joint Code of Practice to help eradicate bullying, harassment and discrimination in the music sector.  The new set of principles will aid employers in meeting their legal requirements as well as setting out a shared vision for promoting and maintaining a positive working culture.

As you would expect, the MIA fully support this important Code of Practice for employers.

Deborah Annetts, Chief Executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians said:

‘The ISM’s Dignity at work report revealed a culture of discriminatory behaviour, including sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination relating to all protected characteristics across the entire music sector. The respondents, who were mainly self-employed, ‘depping’ musicians (and not covered under the Equality Act 2010), did not report their experiences due to fear of being victimised and ‘blacklisted’, indicates a toxic culture which needs to change.

Following in the footsteps of the British Film Institute and UK Theatre/SOLT, who have both launched vital principles for the film and theatre industries, the ISM and Musicians’ Union have joined forces to launch a set of principles for the music sector. We call on all organisations – whether they are a venue, orchestra, school, recording studio or otherwise, to sign up and support this Code and ensure its implementation within the work space.’

Naomi Pohl, Assistant General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union said:

‘When the #MeToo movement began in late 2017, the MU established a confidential email account for musicians and other individuals working in the music sector to report instances of sexism, sexual harassment and abuse.  The many reports we have received have been deeply concerning and range from everyday sexism, which appears rife across the industry, to sexual assault.  It is clear to us that the culture of the music and entertainment sectors, as well as drama and music education, need to change radically.  To put it bluntly, many workplaces simply aren’t safe for female musicians in particular at the present time.

We know that many employers, venues and educational establishments are keen to work with us and we believe this new Code of Practice will be widely welcomed.  While it isn’t the only available Code of Practice, it is unique in our sector because it has been drafted with freelance workers, performers and students in mind.  Freelancers are particularly vulnerable to abuse as they may feel they have no rights and nowhere to turn for help.  We want to ensure they feel supported at work and that we and their engagers have their safety and wellbeing as our top priority.’ 

Here is the code of practice: 

A set of principles to tackle and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination for all those working in the music sector

These principles aim to eradicate bullying, harassment, discrimination and other forms of inappropriate behaviour within the sector. They will also help employers to meet their legal requirements as well as setting out a shared vision for promoting and maintaining a positive working culture.

All employers, employees, officers, workers, agency workers, trainees, students, tutors, volunteers, trustees and freelancers should adhere to these principles. Everyone is responsible for promoting and maintaining an inclusive workplace which is positive and supportive.

We are committed to promoting and maintaining a diverse and equal working culture

  • We oppose bullying, harassment and discrimination and will not tolerate such behaviour within our own organisation and
  • We are committed to playing our part in improving the working culture of the music sector.
  • We are an equal opportunities employer and committed to improving diversity within our own workforce
  • We value inclusivity, appreciate difference welcome learning from others and consider people equal without prejudice or favour. We build relationships based on mutual respect. We will work to give and receive feedback in a constructive way, which we know will improve creativity and productivity.
  • We will take a proactive approach to improving the working culture of our own organisation (e.g. ensuring equal opportunities in any recruitment and selection process, providing flexible working policies and family-friendly contracts).
  • We will encourage appropriate behaviour within our own organisation and in our
  • Where we work with individuals under the age of 18, we will ensure that appropriate safeguarding training and advice is provided to our staff and
  • We will implement and promote appropriate policies, procedures and complaints processes to protect everyone – including the freelancers we engage and students we teach.
  • We will respect each other’s dignity, regardless of the seniority of our role in any

When reports are made

  • We understand that it is difficult for individuals who have suffered bullying, harassment or discrimination to speak. We will respect confidentiality where possible and aim to make the process of reporting clear, straightforward and accessible .
  • Reports of bullying, harassment or discrimination made to us will be taken seriously, handled sensitively, and with the complainant’s safety and wellbeing as our first priority. This will mean providing adequate protection for complainants and, where bullying harassment or discrimination is found to have occurred, taking appropriate action against the perpetrators. We will do all in our power to ensure that individuals who have made complaints or participate in good faith in any investigation do not suffer any form of reprisal or victimisation as a result
  • Where individuals belong to a trade union or professional association, we will encourage them to seek its advice and
  • We will maintain a list of support services for use by those who have suffered harassment bullying or
  • Where issues are raised with us that may be of a criminal nature, we will refer the individual concerned to an appropriate support service (e.g.

We will ensure that these principles are embedded at the early stages of careers in the music sector and the performing arts, to ensure that a safer, more inclusive working culture becomes the norm.