Industry bodies representing agents, publishers, bookseller and authors publish Commitment to Professional Behaviour to stamp out sexual harassment, discrimination, bullying and intimidation
The first Industry Commitment to Professional Behaviour in Bookselling and Publishing has been created and endorsed by The Association of Authors’ Agents, The Booksellers Association, The Publishers Association and The Society of Authors.
The industry was prompted to work together 'to set out the high professional standards that we should expect from one another' after revelations of sexual harassment last year in a Bookseller survey and a subsequent blog by Lizzy Kremer from David Higham Associates (pictured), who is now president of the AAA.
After initial soundings, it became apparent that as well as sexual harassment, there were other universally shared concerns about behaviour and conduct. The Commitment issued today therefore also includes freedom of speech, diversity and inclusion as a well as sexual and other harassment, discrimination, bullying and intimidation.
Four key principles have been agreed:-
1) We in the books industry support creative expression and freedom of speech. However, our creative realm is also a professional one and we expect high standards of behaviour from everyone we encounter in the course of our work, including colleagues and customers.
2) We will protect the passion, imagination and creativity of everyone in the books industry. We will celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion so that all voices can be heard.
3) We will recognise our influence and make a commitment to work together to prevent abuse of power, creating a work environment free of discrimination, harassment including sexual harassment, bullying and intimidation.
4) We will ensure that everyone in our industry is treated with dignity and respect so that individuals are supported and able to speak out.
The full commitment (http://www.publishers.org.uk/activities/inclusivity/industry-commitment) has been issued to members of all organisations this morning (7 December) and published on the front pages of the trade associations’ websites.
Kremer said: "Working together as trade associations and colleagues over the last several months to write down our ideals and aims, we have provoked discussion of what 'professional behaviour' means to us across every echelon of the business we love.
"I am excited that we can now open up our conversation to the whole industry. We invite all of our colleagues to join with us in our commitment to articulating, creating and protecting a professional environment of which we can feel proud, and in which we can all work safely and with dignity.
"As readers and writers we hold the value of text and of language in high esteem and can do better than to simply assume that we all agree on the most important issues, such as the vital importance of creating workplaces free of harassment and discrimination. It is only fitting that an industry fuelled and inspired by the written word should have taken exceptional steps to collaborate on a written Commitment.
"In a business which can often seem to have relatively horizontal hierarchies, and in which we enjoy plenty of informal contact, it is easy to overlook the situations in which we have more power than the colleagues with whom we are working. The Commitment urges us each to take responsibility for preventing any abuse of power, whether that be through careful monitoring of our own actions, or watchful protection of those colleagues with less influence than us. As well as reminding us of our individual and corporate responsibility in every workplace, whether that be office, festival, party or rights fair; those who endorse the Commitment will be pledging their support to any colleague who feels that they have been subject to inappropriate behaviour."
BA md Meryl Halls said: "Bookselling and publishing expect and demand high standards of professional, respectful behaviour from everyone encountered in the course of work, including colleagues, customers and other industry professionals. This is the first time the BA has worked with this number of other representative groups on the production of a joint commitment of this nature, and we are proud to issue this in unison. This affects all of us and we are speaking with one voice supporting dignity at work. The commitment exhorts people to support one another and take action by Listening Up; Speaking Up; and Standing Up.
"We come together representing very diverse memberships and unfortunately, as trade associations rather than merely employers, we are not able to implement a trade complaints and enforcement procedure. But we know that words matter and this commitment matters. We hope to inspire colleagues to be more aware, more sensitive to others, and to behave appropriately. It is particularly important that it has been created jointly and endorsed by all of us, representing staff of all levels from across the industry."
Emma House, deputy ceo of the PA, said: "A document like this can’t ever be the whole answer, but we hope that it will be an important part of surfacing these issues, encouraging conversations and helping people feel confident that their industry is one that takes their dignity at work very seriously. Our intention is that the commitment is meaningful, helpful and makes people feel seen and supported. We also hope that businesses will use it alongside any existing policies they have or to help develop these if they don’t have them. We want to thank everyone who has fed into the process of developing the commitment, commented and shared their experiences."
Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the SoA, said: "Any statement worth making should be about more than words alone, so we intend the publica-tion of this Industry Commitment not to be an endpoint but a milestone in ongoing cross-sector culture change. If we can share, repeat and embed these core values, I hope we can ensure not on-ly that everyone we work with is clear on appropriate behaviour, but also that we can foster work-ing environments where anyone, regardless of role, is treated with dignity and empowered to speak up when they feel the commitment is not being honoured.
"At the Society of Authors, we’re taking today’s publication as an opportunity to refresh and clarify our own guidelines and policies for staff, members and all our partners when working with us. These also go live today, explicitly embedding the principles of the Industry Commitment into our daily interactions."
Below is the full text of the commitment:-
1. We in the books industry support creative expression and freedom of speech.
However, our creative realm is also a professional one and we expect high standards of
behaviour from everyone we encounter in the course of our work, including colleagues
2. We will protect the passion, imagination and creativity of everyone in the books industry.
We will celebrate and promote diversity and inclusion so that all voices can be heard.
3. We will recognise our influence and make a commitment to work together to prevent abuse
of power, creating a work environment free of discrimination, harassment including sexual
harassment, bullying and intimidation.
4. We will ensure that everyone in our industry is treated with dignity and respect so that
individuals are supported and able to speak out.
1. We share a united vision of professionalism for publishing, bookselling and literary
Authors, publishers, agents and booksellers are colleagues and collaborators in business and all parties
can expect a high standard of professional behaviour from one another.
Our professional behaviour is thoughtful and anticipates consequences – and is required in every
environment where people interact for work reasons, including but not limited to: offices, bookshops,
parties, committees, lunch meetings, awards ceremonies, rights fairs, festivals and any other venue, formalor informal; as well as online and in all communications.
Creative collaboration often necessitates the sharing of personal experience but we will understand that
such collaboration is a professional act and not an invitation to inappropriate intimacy.
In a professional context we will never make unwanted personal or sexual propositions, suggestive
remarks or gestures, or instigate unwanted physical contact.
We acknowledge that it’s not appropriate to use humour or ‘banter’ to make comments that have the
effect of isolating or humiliating others.
Our professional communication will focus on facts, not emotion, and be respectful to all parties.
We have a right to retain our privacy, and to feel safe and valued in the working environment.
No colleague should feel obliged to use personal social media accounts for work purposes.
Be aware of your company policy. If you do not think there is one, ask. As industry associations, we
encourage our members to promote and implement the standards of professional behaviour set out
in this document and to create and endorse company policies which reflect these principles.
2. We celebrate and actively promote diversity and inclusion in all its forms, including and not
limited to the nine protected characteristics cited in The Equality Act 2010: age, disability,
gender reassignment (including trans), marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and
maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
We want all voices to be heard. Inclusivity is crucial to the future success of our industry. We look to
writers to continue to explore ways to reflect and test us in their work.
It is not acceptable to make dismissive or hostile remarks about a person on any basis or to make
assumptions about someone’s lifestyle, interests or abilities.
We will be sensitive to our potential vulnerabilities and differences. For example, no one should feel
pressured to drink alcohol within a work environment, even if the work environment is a party.
3. We will recognise our position and influence. We will act appropriately and with responsibility
and recognise that professional behaviour never allows for abuse of power.
We recognise that power is situational and that we can all be in a position of greater relative power. For
example, when we have greater experience or are in a more senior role; where there is privilege inherent
in our cultural heritage, education or socio-economic status; when we have access to somebody or
something that is highly valued; when we are in a position where it is somebody’s job to ‘look after’ us;
then we will recognise the power we have and use it responsibly.
We acknowledge that behaviour we might perceive as commonplace or sociable can feel inappropriate to
someone, even if they don’t express their discomfort.
When we are in a position of greater influence, it is our responsibility to foster a working environment in
which everyone in both formal and more relaxed situations is treated with professionalism, integrity
4. We will support one another and take action by:
LISTENING: If someone tells us that they find something racist, sexist, threatening, or uncomfortable,
they have a right to that judgment and that feeling. We will behave with empathy, respect and
SPEAKING UP: If we experience unwanted behaviour, we will clearly explain what makes us
uncomfortable and ask for the behaviour to stop.
BEING ALLIES: We will not remain silent in the face of unacceptable behaviour. We will listen to and
empower those who have experienced such behaviour. We will bear witness and support appropriate
action being taken, regardless of the status or the relative ‘importance’ of the individuals involved.
Harassment is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as ‘unwanted conduct … which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’.
Bullying is defined by ACAS as ‘offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means that undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient’.
Discrimination is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex’.
Author: where ‘author’ is used, it is implied to include creators including but not limited to illustrators,
translators, spoken word performers, graphic novelists and writers of books of all kinds.