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| 1 minute read

Tackling toxic workplace cultures

Interesting to see recent media coverage of two industries which have little in common - the unregulated music industry and the highly regulated financial services sector - each trying to tackle toxic workplace cultures. The FCA is requiring firms it regulates to carry out a survey into non-financial misconduct, seeking 3 years' worth of data on complaints raised about discrimination, bullying and other whistleblowing concerns, regardless of the outcome of those complaints. It points out that high complaint levels may not be the sign of a toxic workplace but rather the opposite, a healthy one where people feel free to ventilate their grievances. It will use the data to inform the approach it takes to its supervisory function going forward. Notably, the FCA is keen to capture instances where non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are used as this is part of understanding what contributes to a toxic culture; in some instances they allow for incidents to be treated as confined to an individual complainant rather than as part of a pattern by a perpetrator.  

While the FS sector is well-placed to capture data because it has a regulator, the music industry is having to start from scratch. The recent Report Misogyny in music - Women and Equalities Committee ( calls for a non-statutory regulator to be appointed for the first time so that the different work experiences (often of freelancers) in different settings and venues may be captured and improved upon. While some may be tempted to think that it is rigid structures and traditional hierarchies which prevent women from getting on, the report conveys how the precarious and isolated nature of work in the creative industries are factors which make women vulnerable to sexism and misogyny. Interesting that one of the recommendations in the report is for non-disclosure agreements to be outlawed in relation to cases involving sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination relating to other protected characteristics. A similar call was made in 2019 by the Women and Equalities Committee. But at that time the Government rejected this proposal and committed to some moderate reforms around the use of NDAs, which we are still awaiting details of.  


We received distressing evidence on the impact of non-disclosure agreements on victims of discrimination, harassment and abuse. Victims with little agency in the process are threatened into silence by organisations seeking to protect their reputation and the perpetrators of abuse who work for them. Victims described to us of being told they would suffer reprisals if they failed to sign what was put in front of them, often without independent counsel. The Government should urgently bring forward legislative proposals to prohibit the use of non-disclosure and other forms of confidentiality agreements in cases involving sexual abuse, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, bullying or harassment, and discrimination relating to a protected characteristic.


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