Entertainment & Arts

The Old Vic launches 'Guardians Network' to stop abuse at work

The Old Vic Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Old Vic celebrated its bicentenary earlier this year

The Old Vic has launched an initiative to help stop abuses of power taking place in the workplace.

Guardians Network is designed to help organisations go further in creating a safe and secure working environment.

Last year, 20 people at the theatre came forward with allegations of inappropriate behaviour against its former artistic director, Kevin Spacey.

The Old Vic apologised for not creating a culture where people felt able to speak freely.

The new scheme consists of a 'Guardians' programme, which will see members of staff trained to act as confidential sounding boards for colleagues who seek support relating to an individual's behaviour or the culture of a workplace - but are unsure about how to proceed.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In November, an Old Vic investigation uncovered 20 allegations of misconduct from staff

The role of the guardians is to listen to colleagues confidentially, give neutral support on issues and, where relevant, advise upon which processes and staff may assist.

The Old Vic has teamed up with a number of other organisations in the creative arts industry for the initiative. The BFI, English National Ballet, National Portrait Gallery and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra are among those to have subscribed and will implement their own Guardians programme.

The Old Vic has prepared a 'How to' practical guide - available on its website, and network member organisations are to receive ongoing training from a safeguarding consultant and law firm, Lewis Silkin.

Kate Varah, executive director at The Old Vic, said: 'We devised the Guardians programme in dialogue with our staff to enshrine our values and workplace culture. The idea is simple and therefore easy for others to implement and benefit. It's heartening that so many have already done just that."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The English National Ballet is among the organisations to adopt the scheme

One of the founders of Time's Up UK, Dame Heather Rabbatts, said: "Over half the population of the UK don't feel safe in their work environments. More than half of all women and nearly two-thirds of women aged 18 to 24 say they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Recent research has found that in around half of the cases where individuals report the incident, employers take no action.

"We believe that everyone deserves to live and work with safety and dignity, The Old Vic's Guardians programme is a step towards achieving just that."

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