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Eight out of 10 self-employed parents have had to turn down theatre work – report

Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov, co-founders of Parents in Performing Arts. Photo: Jose Mosquera
Cassie Raine and Anna Ehnold-Danailov, co-founders of Parents in Performing Arts. Photo: Jose Mosquera
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Eight out of 10 self-employed theatre workers have had to turn down work owing to childcare responsibilities, a major new report suggests.

Among respondents to a survey of more than 950 theatre workers, 81% of those who were self-employed had turned down work because of their caring responsibilities. More than half – 57% – of employed people had also had to decline work.

About a third of both self-employed and employed respondents said they missed auditions and meetings at least once a month because of their caring duties. Further, 66% of respondents said they had changed jobs after becoming parents.

The findings are part of research undertaken by campaigning body Parents in Performing Arts. It was carried out to provide a deeper understanding of the challenges and barriers facing parents working in the sector.

In the survey 68% of respondents agreed that men and women were treated differently by organisations they worked for once they become parents, with women facing the bigger burden of childcare duties.

According to the survey, four times more women than men reported doing 70% of the childcare, and only women reported doing 100%.

The research also points to a lack of alternative care arrangements, meaning parents are often unable to attend auditions or rehearsals.

Respondents said they were keen for employers to introduce creches to ease childcare problems, but the need for flexible working hours was also highlighted by both employed and self-employed respondents as a way to combat problems.

Almost nine out of 10 respondents thought that everybody, regardless of their caring responsibilities, could benefit from flexible hours.

The report concluded that self-employed people were “significantly disadvantaged” by current provisions of childcare support.

However, the authors also admitted there was a “higher degree of overlap or porosity between employment and self-employment than we had anticipated”.

According to the findings, most solutions to balancing work and carer responsibilities are “informally arranged” and tend to be instigated by the employee.

Part-time work, the report states, is often seen as “a form of demotion”.

The report also highlights the unpredictable working patterns in the industry, with many respondents noting anxiety around not being able to commit to extra hours. Actor Romola Garai, who is supporting the campaign, has previously spoken out about the problems facing parents in the industry, and has called on theatres to be give more notice time when planning rehearsals.

Tom Cornford, who has led the research, said: “Our interim findings demonstrate the depth and complexity of the challenges faced both by theatre workers with caring responsibilities and their employers. We have identified both employment and career consequences of caring and aspects of the long-established working culture of theatres that actively disadvantage and exclude parents and those with other caring responsibilities.”

He said trial solutions proposed during a symposium at the end of last year would be implemented by theatres that are part of the PIPA consortium.

The Old Vic leads the consortium, which comprises 18 organisations. Kate Varah, executive director at the Old Vic, said the venue was “committed to finding solutions to effect lasting change”.

“If we don’t, we’ll miss out on the pool of talent out there who need us to open the gateway to ensure they can work in our industry,” she added.

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