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The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) has published a code of best practice for member agencies around bullying and harassment. In it, it has emphasised the actions marketers need to take to eradicate inappropriate behaviour in the office – including "sexual banter" and the objectification of both women and men. 

Coming on the back of the widespread #MeToo and #TimesUp equality movements, the Code of Conduct for Dignity at Work comprises a template policy that can by used by agencies as a basis for reviewing or preparing their own.

The document also contains guidelines on what actions can be taken to prevent bullying and harassment in the office, which the IPA said agencies can consider on top of their own equal opportunities policy.

Guidelines for agencies 

The full code is only available to member agencies, but The Drum has seen a copy of the guidance document. As well as as containing an in-depth explanation of current UK employment laws around anti-harassment it sets out practical steps for agency employers. 

As part of its guidelines, the IPA has advised ad shops to review or prepare their own policies around bullying and harassment as well as implement training for all staff around the issues.

It has also advised agencies to enable a culture of mentoring and ensure their HR resource is trained in handling complaints of a sensitive nature. 

While the focus of the #MeToo movement has been on Hollywood, advertising has been far from exempt from the discussion.

The IPA's guidance comes in the aftermath of revelations that advertising giant WPP had a table at the President's Club dinner; an event where the Financial Times claimed women were "groped and harassed". At the time, WPP said it's guests weren't aware of the alleged incidents and withdrew support for the dinner

Elsewhere, J Walter Thompson announced earlier this year it had reached a confidential and "amicable" settlement in the lawsuit filed against it by former chief communications officer Erin Johnson over two years ago alleging sexual harassment. 

It also follows on from an email which revealed the tradition of 'top five' memos at The&Partnership, in which female employees were ranked by their looks – which the firm's chief executive Sarah Goulding has since apologised for. 

While it didn't mention the practice of top five emails, the IPA did note: 
"IT and social media policies are essential in this digital era where online bullying and harassment is a serious issue.  As part of these, consider formulating an 'e-mail etiquette' for reducing the risk of inappropriate e-mail banter."

'No Longer acceptable'

Goulding, who is also IPA president, said: "As president of the IPA I felt it was important that the IPA, through its Council, provided additional guidance around what is appropriate behaviour in the workplace.

"I am very happy we are now in a position to publish our Code of Conduct for Dignity at Work, to help our members understand what is, and what is not acceptable.”

 Juliet Bawtree, associate director, legal and public affairs, employment at the IPA said the conversation about harassment both in society generally and specifically in the workplace, has "risen to a crescendo in recent times."

She added: "This has been amplified by campaigns such as #MeToo, and #TimesUp. It is important then that IPA members are part of this conversation, helping push forward this positive movement for ending any inappropriate workplace cultures that demean and objectify men and women."

The code was drawn up following an agreement at the IPA’s recent Council meeting comprising leaders from 47 agencies across the UK and is available for members via the website.