Marketing industry renews efforts to tackle sexual harassment ahead of office return

The industry’s response to #MeToo aims to ensure office life in 2021 avoids a return to an “old normal” with a refreshed code of conduct and new training.

The UK advertising industry’s response to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements is updating its code of conduct with the aim of ensuring that when businesses return to offices they do so in a fairer way.

The latest piece of research from the timeTo steering group and thinktank Credos reveals 49% of respondents believe sexual harassment will be more of a problem as businesses return to offices next year versus their experience during lockdown.

The survey of 1,250 marketers across the UK shows there is a concern around ‘pent up’ emotions leading to an increase in inappropriate behaviour once restrictions are lifted, with some worried boundaries of appropriate behaviour will be forgotten.

Nearly a third of respondents were still unsure of the strength of their employer’s stance against sexual harassment in the workplace, while 17% argue their company does not have a strong enough stance. However, more than half (52%) there is a strong enough stance on sexual harassment in their business.

Just because the people who perpetrate sexual harassment have been away for a while doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.

timeTo, Helen Calcraft

TimeTo Steering Group member and founder of Lucky Generals, Helen Calcraft, says: “Just because the people who perpetrate sexual harassment have been away for a while doesn’t mean the problem has gone away. This research shows that a lot of people in our industry are scared to come back to the office, and this is wrong. It also shows they want this issue tackled.”

In response to the survey findings, timeTo has refreshed its code of conduct and training programme to meet the new demands of a hybrid work environment.

The updated guide will incorporate research learnings and help educate on ways sexual harassment can manifest when working virtually or in a hybrid environment.

Sexual harassment ads ask marketers where they draw the line

This advice includes how to work in a virtual world and education on what forms online sexual harassment can take; key guidance and considerations for employers when working virtually and in hybrid environments and for those who have been directly affected by sexual harassment and ways to keep safe. It also reaffirms a business need for collective responsibility to ensure the industry works towards a ‘new normal’ in which no forms of harassment are tolerated.

Taster sessions will be available for senior leaders of timeTo-endorsing companies from January.

Advertising Association chief executive, Stephen Woodford, says: “2020 has been a tumultuous year and we are determined that we make good on our collective ambition to build back better. This has to include a renewed approach to ensure our workplaces are ones that are safe and can be enjoyed by all, without any fear of sexual harassment.

“I urge all companies to conduct the refreshed training and ensure the new code of conduct is seen and understood by all.”

TimeTo is a collaboration between the Advertising Association, NABS and WACL. It launched in March 2018 and is aiming to eradicate sexual harassment from the UK advertising and marketing industry.



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