Groundbreaking UK Survey of Performing Arts Reveals ‘Career Penalty’ For Parents And Carers

Groundbreaking UK Survey of Performing Arts Reveals ‘Career Penalty’ For Parents And Carers

Launched at a parliamentary event on 18th October 2018, hosted by Tracy Brabin MP, Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PIPA) share the headline findings of their game-changing UK wide survey into work-life balance and the performing arts.

As evidenced in the study, work in the performing arts disadvantages those with caring responsibilities through ‘career penalties’, with carers, women and freelancers finding it hard to make ends meet and fund childcare. The findings are stark, as caring hits earning – overall, carers earn £3,000 less a year than those who do not have such responsibilities.

 The ‘Balancing Act’ survey was conducted in partnership with Birkbeck, University of London, the research project was funded by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, Help Musicians UK, Sadler’s Wells and SOLT/ UK Theatre.

This is the first national benchmarking survey of its kind, as little if any national data exists on how people manage their caring responsibilities whilst working in the performing arts. Using a bespoke survey the research team gathered data from over 2,500 people across dance, music and theatre, including over a thousand respondents with caring responsibilities.


Key Findings:

  • Freelance workers in the arts are vulnerable as they have to rely on their own resources and support structures in order to continue their careers. They report that their low earnings reportedly do not cover unexpected expenses, not surprising at median annual earnings of £16,000, far less than the UK average wage. The team also found that women earn on average 25% less than men, which is on par with other industry sectors.
  • 44% of women had to change roles due to childcare responsibilities, compared to 23% of male carers; 50% of female carers and 36% of male carers had to change job location because of childcare issues. Women with caring responsibilities were more likely to work part-time or freelance than women without caring responsibilities. There is no notable difference between the employment structure of men, when comparing men with, and those without, caring responsibilities. Parents and carers report a career and salary sacrifice in order to fulfill caring responsibilities and are unable to access career opportunities as those working in the performing arts rely on other income to pursue their arts careers, and habitually give up performance work once they become parents. This is not out of choice as 43% of female carers would want to increase their working hours in the arts, as would 32% of working fathers, if adequate childcare was available.
  • There is a lack of support and training opportunities for those who’ve had to change their job role. Of those who had changed roles, only 19% agreed that they received adequate training, and only 21% agreed that they received adequate support.
  • 79% of female respondents reported that they were the primary carer (i.e. responsible for more than 50% of the caring), but only 16% male respondents would say the same. There is a high desire among freelance respondents for shared parental leave as 74% of men and 72% of women said they’d like to access shared parental leave if it was available.
  • The vast majority (54%) of survey respondents were freelancers which is in line with the industry’s high proportion of freelance workforce. Only 29% of carers responding to the survey were in full-time employment compared to 45% of non-carers. 
  • The research team stress that their findings should not be seen as a one off, but warrant follow up on an annual basis to gather industry specific data on the performing arts and monitor equal opportunities to benchmark progress.


PIPA’S Recommendations:

 1.)  Employers and Industry bodies collaborate with PIPA to establish career development opportunities for carers and parents returning to work, through training, coaching, mentoring and returnship programs.

2.) Equal opportunities monitoring must include carers and parents and be reviewed on an annual basis in order to benchmark progress.

3.) Organisations urgently review their working practices, in line with the PIPA Best Practice Charter, to adopt a flexible approach to recruitment, management and development for all staff, including freelance and employed workers.

 The interim findings can be found here: 

 The full practice report will be available at the beginning of December. The Parliamentary sharing on 18th October is to start the conversation and create the opportunity to formulate next steps together with Government and Industry bodies.


Professor Almuth McDowall from Birkbeck University of London, said: 

The data points to high job insecurity, career penalties for carers and for women, and an urgent need for flexible and inclusive work practices. A recent job share for a performing artist in the London West End made headlines news – but this is common practice in other sectors. Our data shows that there is urgent need for change.”

Claire Gevaux, Director of Programme, Help Musicians UK said “HMUK is delighted to support this vital piece of research into the working conditions of parents and carers in music as well as the rest of the performing arts. The findings indicate parents and carers experience clear obstacles to career progression, the largely freelance workforce need support and infrastructure as well as equal career opportunities. It is clear that carers contribute to a rich and diverse talent pool, so supporting their working conditions and keeping them in the sector will help to future proof the success of the music industry. HMUK supports and champions a thriving music industry.”

Cassie Raine, Actor and Co-Founder of PIPA said: “This is a great opportunity to reflect as an industry and investigate more supportive working practices, inclusive of carers and parents, whether they are single parents or caring for sick or elderly relatives. No matter where you start off in life or what happens on the way, as an industry we have to show that we are invested in workforce wellbeing and value their ability to maintain a work-life balance.”

Andrew Hurst, Chief Executive of One Dance UK said: “This research provides valuable insights into and evidence of the current realities of life for performing artists, which for dancers is further complicated by the need to return to peak physical fitness post pregnancy in order to continue a performing career. We welcome this opportunity to reflect and further interrogate how we can do more to support those with caring responsibilities and ensure our talented workforce is able to thrive at every stage of their career.”

 Hadley FraserActor and PIPA Ambassador,  said: 

“As an industry we have to support people to make the choices they need to in order to keep working after they have had a family. One of the perks of a freelance lifestyle is the flexibility and choice that comes with it but the majority of people in our business don’t have that luxury. We need to be in a certain place at a certain time, often at short notice and for a long time. Flexibility has to be two ways or we need to get support structures in place so men and women can have a family and continue working.”

 Olga Fitzroy, Music producer & mixer & founder of Parental Pay Equality  said:

“This report shows that there is a huge appetite for Shared Parental Leave for freelancers in the arts. The government are missing opportunities and talented people will keep dropping out of the sector until this addressed.”


For further information contact: / 07791 765 456


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