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Equity criticises planned 7am start for child actors

Proposals from the government put start times for child actors at 7am.
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Equity has hit out at plans to allow child performers to start work at 7am – an hour earlier than adults –  and has called for more clarification on aspects of the government’s plans to streamline child performance regulations.

The government has just completed consultation over bringing the regulations for children working on screen or stage in line with each other. It covers when children can take part in performances and the breaks they must have.

As part of its plans, the government states that the earliest time young performers can start work currently is between 7am and 10am, depending on age, but that it is proposing to make it 7am for all children. However, Equity has responded by claiming that the proposed time is too early, especially when taking into account the time required for performers to travel to a place of work and the fact adults start later.

“We do not agree that the earliest start time for child performers should be earlier than that of adult performers,” it said, adding that its current agreement with the Society of London Theatre states 8am as the earliest start time for adult actors.

The union has also called for more detail on other aspects of the proposals, including the latest times children can be at work.

The upper limit for broadcast work is 7pm for children nine and over, and 4.30pm for those under nine. The government has labelled these “unduly restrictive” and is suggesting children over five work no later than 11pm, children aged between two and four no later than 10pm and not beyond 4pm for those under two.

Equity said it did not understand why the current times were considered restrictive and added: “Greater detail is required before such a significant change should be made.”

The union also said it was “extremely concerned” that there is a proposal that children aged over five have just three breaks in eight hours and has rejected a proposal to reduce the minimum duration of lunch breaks from an hour to 45 minutes.

“A break of anything less than one hour is simply not enough. The child performers would need to come out of costume, take comfort breaks, eat and drink, have enough time to digest their food and keep hydrated and also have time to relax and play,” it said.

The government is currently assessing the responses it has received.


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