Screen Australia has proposed that its code of conduct to prevent sexual harassment take effect from April for all projects approved for production funding.
The final draft of code, as released by the agency today, obligates production companies and producers to take a zero tolerance standpoint on sexual harassment as a condition of Screen Australia production funding.
The code is designed to set out what behaviour constitutes sexual harassment, reminds staff of their personal liability should they engage in such behaviour, outlines various options available if they are subject to it, and obligates producers to address reports of harassment should they occur in a timely, fair and appropriate way.
Speaking at Screen Producers Australia (SPA)’s Safe Workplace Training Workshop yesterday, Screen Australia chief operating officer Fiona Cameron said the code is not revolutionary, rather designed to reinforce the existing law, as set out in the Sex Discrimination Act, and keep workplaces safe.
“The code of conduct shall bring the law into plain view, in plain English, and provide pathways to address and resolve issues. Visibility is the key; knowing you have a pathway to resolve issues is paramount,” she said.
Producers will be required to supply the code to all people working on a production, whether they be employees of the production company, freelancers, contractors, subcontractors, interns/placements/attachment or from an affiliated business. Screen Australia also plans to provide an abridged version of the code that can be used as a poster in the workplace.
Producers will also need to nominate a staff member to act as sexual harassment prevention contact during a project’s production and post-production, similar to a first aid, workplace safety or emergency evacuation contact. That person will then be tasked with addressing reports of harassment should they occur, however people may also take complaints to the producer, who has ultimate legal responsibility, or to a supervisor. No specific accreditation is currently specified for this contact role, but it is expected the producers provide training and support as appropriate.
Upon completion of production, producers will also be required to submit a compliance report in the form of a stat dec. Failure to comply with the code will be considered a contract breach, and as per Screen Australia’s existing terms of trade, will put producers’ ability to secure future funding at risk. Failure to submit the compliance report will also mean that final payment on a production may be withheld.
“If a production has done everything in their power to implement the code and an incident occurs regardless, this will not affect future funding as long as the situation is dealt with quickly, properly and in accordance with the law and the code,” Cameron said.
The COO added the code is designed to be scaled to suit the size of the production.
“Big productions can do more; little productions can do less. For example, a small production would have one sexual harassment contact. A large production may have two or three – there may be a male [and] there may be a female.”
The industry invited to provide feedback on the code until the start of March.
As IF reported, Screen Australia first announced it was developing a code last December, and Cameron yesterday said a code was a simple way to set expectations and lead cultural change.
She stressed sexual harassment policies and processes can’t be buried or “box ticked”, and that the industry must genuinely respond to and heed the call for cultural change in the industry.
“This cannot be a box ticking exercise. At stake are entire productions. Overseas we’ve seen them axed, re-cast or completely re-shot. Closer to home, a production is in limbo. This is serious stuff ”
SPA and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) are also currently working on an industry-wide policy with regards to workplace bullying, investigations and discrimination and harassment.
Cameron said yesterday that when an industry code of practice is finalised, there is the potential for Screen Australia to not longer need to have a code of conduct relating to sexual harassment.
View the final draft of Screen Australia’s code here.
The deadline for feedback is March 1, and Screen Australia intends for the code to take effect April 2.