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MPs and music industry bodies criticise government's rejection of recommendations aimed at making the music industry safer for women.

The hands of a woman using a mixing desk


Government is not doing enough to improve protections from harassment and discrimination for women working in the music industry professionals, an influential group of MPs has said.

The Women and Equalities Select Committee (WEC) published a range of recommendations directed at the government in January following its Misogyny in Music inquiry, including changing legislation around non-disclosure agreements (NDA) and updating the Equalities Act.

In its official response, government has ultimately resisted most of the report's recommendations, leading to criticisms from WEC and music industry bodies.


Naomi Pohl, General Secretary of the Musician's Union, said the organisation was “deeply disappointed” and “shocked” by the rejection of the report’s findings, while Caroline Nokes, Chair of WEC, said, “We have had platitudes and reassurance, but still no action.” 

The report followed a inquiry that began in June 2022, hearing evidence from professionals across the industry, including BBC DJ Annie Mac and musician Rebecca Ferguson.

In a highly critical conclusion, it said that the government's failure to make legislative changes that protect freelancers in line with standard employment law meant “vulnerable people continue to be unable to access the support they need while perpetrators of discrimination and harassment are allowed to go unpunished."

Its wide-ranging recommendations called for amendments to the Equality Act to ensure freelance workers have the same protections from discrimination as PAYE employees and bringing into force Section 14 to improve protections for people facing intersectional inequality.

Responding to the report, the government said it has no plans to implement the dual discrimination provision in the Equality Act 2010 “at this time” and that Section 14 “is considered unnecessary since the 2010 Act provides robust protection across a range of protected characteristics."

In a statement, Pohl countered: "The Equality Act is out of date and does not reflect how people see themselves or how they work; it needs updating as a matter of urgency."

Non-disclosure agreements

WEC had urged ministers to prohibit the use of  NDAs in cases involving sexual abuse, bullying, and discrimination relating to a protected characteristic. It also asked for a retrospective moratorium for those who have already signed NDAs.

The government’s response did not support WEC’s suggestion, adding that a moratorium could have “unintended consequences”, creating legal uncertainty for both businesses and workers.

Chair of WEC, Caroline Nokes, said: “Ministers are letting women down with their feet dragging over NDAs. We have had platitudes and reassurance but still no action despite evidence that the use of NDAs is rife in far too many sectors, and they are being used to protect perpetrators and silence victims.

Ministers also declined to act on proposals to impose a legal duty on employers to protect workers from sexual harassment by third parties and reform of parental leave for freelancers.

Pohl said it was "particularly disappointing" not to see the government implement protection from third-party harassment despite "overwhelming evidence" of the issue and "overwhelming support" for the changes.

Replying to the proposal that self-employed mothers and fathers should be allowed to share non-consecutive parental leave and pay, as is the case with PAYE employees, the government noted that it focuses on supporting PAYE-employed parents as they do not have “the same level of flexibility and autonomy” as self-employed parents. 

'Painfully disappointing'

Pohl said: “The government had an opportunity to listen and learn from those lived experiences and implement the changes that the WESC report recommended. Instead, the government decided that women’s safety is not a priority. Again, survivors are not being listened to. 

"The industry needs increased funding to support targeted action to improve diversity and an improved legislative framework that reflects the way musicians work. The government have committed to neither."  

Independent Society of Musicians Chief Executive Deborah Annetts was also critical of the response.

"The Misogyny in Music report should have been a moment of immediate and lasting change for the music industry," she said.

"For the government to choose not make music safer for women is painfully disappointing, if sadly not surprising. The brilliant women who make our music industry what it is deserve better."

A headshot of Mary Stone