Parents in performing arts ‘forced to pass up work due to lack of childcare support’

Over eight out of 10 self-employed parents in the performing arts have had to turn down work as a result of a caring responsibility, according to a new report by the Parents in Performing Arts consortium.

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The initial findings of PIPA’s Best Practice Report show that it is mainly women who are affected given mothers in the performing arts take on a disproportionate amount of childcare compared to fathers.

Men were more likely than women to say they did under 50% of childcare. No one reported an equal share of the childcare while four times as many women as men reported doing 70% of the childcare and only women reported doing 100% of the childcare.

Moreover, 68% of people agreed that men and women were treated differently by the organisation they worked for after becoming a parent and very few disagreed with the statement. Women were more likely to work part time and men full time.

This could rebound against men who wanted to take on caring roles with the assumption being advised not to mention caring responsibilities at interviews “for fear of either creating an impression of limited availability or appearing less masculine than they otherwise would”.

The report also reveals that self-employed people are significantly disadvantaged by current childcare support provisions with 55% thinking none of the existing support from after school care to part-time hours applies to them and many unaware that they might be able to, for instance, claim Maternity Allowance.

The report says flexible working in the performing arts remains “largely untested” with reduced hours commonly viewed as a demotion.

The findings are based on a UK-wide survey with 966 respondents working in the theatre sector, as well as follow-up interviews and focus groups conducted with the 15 partner theatre organisations.

According to the survey, 81% of self-employed people and 57% of employed people reported that they have turned down work as a result of a caring responsibility and many had not even applied for jobs.  Some 66% of survey respondents reported changing their jobs as a consequence of becoming parents.

The report also reveals what it calls “a tacit working culture in theatres that disadvantages people with caring responsibilities and moreover that caring responsibilities that are not for dependent children are invisible to employers”.

“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,” said lead researcher Dr Tom Cornford from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Kate Varah, Executive Director of The Old Vic, added: “The extraordinary advancement of the PIPA campaign over the last year has been supported by all of us at The Old Vic.

We have joined with other members of the industry in this initial best practice research project, the findings of which have already revealed some practical steps that we can all trial to improve our family friendly employment practices.

We are 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.”

On 14th December 2016, Phase 2 of the research initiative began with the 15 theatre organisations meeting at the first Parents In Performing Arts symposium hosted by the Donmar Warehouse.

The aim of the event was to identify potential solutions to the challenges highlighted by the research findings, some of which will be trialled over the next six months.

They include more flexible hours, open discussion of caring responsibilities, whether for children or others, and changes to planning processes and production schedules which “may tacitly depend upon the flexible and extended availability of key people or teams”.

Caroline Newall, Director of Artistic Development at the National Theatre of Scotland, said: “Many of the ideas raised at the recent symposium were surprisingly simple, easy to implement and had tangible positive benefits.”

The outcome of the research will be a Best Practice Charter to be embedded in the Family Arts Standards in conjunction with the Family and Childcare Trust as well as other performing arts industry guidelines.

PIPA is a Consortium of 18 leading industry organisations, led by The Old Vic. The Best Practice Report is being conducted in partnership with 15 leading UK theatre organisations and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, the research project is funded by The Arts Council of England, Creative Scotland, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Actors’ Children’s Trust, The Family Arts Campaign and UK Theatre.

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