‘Lack of job security in UK theatre is forcing parents out’ – MP Tracy Brabin
Labour MP Tracy Brabin has warned that parents are at risk of being forced out of the theatre industry because of a lack of financial security, claiming the UK has “got to do better”.
Research has found that eight out of 10 self-employed theatre workers have had to turn down work because of caring responsibilities. Brabin also said that many parents found that “childcare they want at a price they can afford is a struggle”.
Speaking at Equity’s Annual Representative Conference, she said: “For many actors, the moment they start to show [their pregnancy] the work stops, and once the baby arrives the long hours, lack of security and sets ill-equipped to have a baby there can put undue pressure on family life.
“Sadly many actors and creatives will choose to leave the sector to find a job with more stable working hours, so we have got to do better for freelancers and the self-employed when it comes to pregnancy. Think about the talent we lose when women take a step back because it’s in the best interests of the family.”
Brabin is working on new legislation that calls for shared parental leave – introduced by the government for employed parents in 2015 – to be extended to self-employed workers.
The bill, which has taken its first steps into becoming enshrined in law, would mean self-employed parents could split parental leave and pay between them.
“Shared parental leave was a big step forward for those in conventional employment. It’s not available for freelancers or the self-employed – which means most of the people in the creative industries and the growing gig economy,” Brabin said, adding that she had drawn up the bill after becoming “so fed up” with employment rights leaving out freelancers.
The bill is due to be read for a second time in parliament on October 24.
Parents in Performing Arts, which campaigns for better rights for parents and carers working in theatre, dance and music, is backing the bill.
Co-founder Cassie Raine said: “If the performing arts is to retain its position as a cultural world leader, legislation must support the industry to attract, retain and nurture its talented workforce, otherwise we will continue to haemorrhage talent that will only impoverish the UK’s creative output.”
She added that shared parental leave would “allow fathers and same-sex couples to share the childcare with their partners, enabling the partner to return to work”.