Findings are based upon a survey with 966 respondents, as well as follow-up interviews and focus groups conducted with our 15 partner theatres. This data is subject to ongoing analysis and is therefore provisional at this stage. It is being presented here for the purposes of feeding into the next stage of the research, in which PIPA’s 15 partner theatre organisations will explore ways of responding practically to the barriers and challenges identified in the first stage of the research.
When compared to national statistics, our respondents are more likely to be female (74%), slightly more likely to identify as White British or White European and likely to have a lower than average income. They represent all areas of work in theatre (Administration and Management, Stage Management, Technical and Production Staff, Creatives, Performers and Senior Management with a very few Maintenance and Front of House staff) but include a much higher proportion of self-employed people than the country as a whole. We note that, with self-employment rising nationally, this data may give us a perspective on working life that is ahead of a national trend and is therefore likely to become increasingly relevant to a broader sector of the population in the coming years.
The main findings of this stage of the research are:
- The burden of childcare falls disproportionately on women. Among working people with caring responsibilities for child dependents, women were much more likely than men to report that they were doing a larger proportion of the childcare than their partner. Only a very small group of men reported doing over 40% of the childcare. This finding is in line with other research into childcare responsibilities. It is particularly significant in this context, however, because it suggests that addressing the barriers to work and challenges in the workplace experience by carers is one practical way of addressing the gender imbalance in theatre that has been widely reported recently.
- Self-employed people are significantly disadvantaged by current provisions for childcare support. There is a clear lack of childcare support provision for self-employed people as against employed people, which seems to be further exacerbated by a perception of exclusion from provision on the part of the self-employed.
- Employment and self-employment are not mutually exclusive categories. In addition to the financial costs of arranging care, people with caring responsibilities reported both losing income and losing opportunities to secure work as a result of those responsibilities. Predictably, a higher proportion of self-employed people than employed people reported these challenges, but it was striking that a majority of employed people with caring responsibilities also reported losing both work and opportunities to secure work. This suggests a higher degree of overlap or porosity between employment and self-employment than we had anticipated. We surmise that this may be a growing trend as we see a rise of ‘portfolio careers’ and working in the ‘gig economy’.
- Flexible working is extremely popular but largely untested. The idea of increased flexible working was the most popular suggestion for enhancing provision for parents and carers and was almost unanimously popular across all respondents regardless of their circumstances. On the other hand, there seem to be few tested models for structuring flexible working to protect both employers and employees, and some respondents reported what appear to be misinterpretations and abuses of flexible working arrangements from colleagues and managements.
- Most solutions to balancing work and caring responsibilities are informally arranged, and often at the instigation of the employee. In many cases, respondents reported that, where they had changed role or adjusted their responsibilities in the light of a caring responsibility, they had taken responsibility for proposing, implementing and managing the change in their role or working pattern. Very few respondents reported receiving support or training during this process.
- Part-time work is commonly seen as a form of demotion. Part-time working was a common solution to the challenges of balancing work and caring responsibilities but seems almost without exception to involve a reduction in the level of responsibility, and a concomitant reduction in opportunities for promotion or advancement. There was no evidence of strategies such as job-sharing or restructuring roles being used in order to sustain the career development of part-time workers.
- Some caring responsibilities are invisible to employers. There are a significant minority of people with caring responsibilities for people who are not dependent children. We are referring to this phenomenon as ‘hidden caring’ because these people are much less likely to have had these responsibilities recognised by their employer and much less likely to be confident in asking their employer to adjust their working pattern to accommodate them. They were also the group who were most likely to experience very frequent interruptions to their working pattern as a result of their responsibilities.
- There is a working culture in theatres that disadvantages people with caring responsibilities. A large majority of respondents reported unpredictable working patterns and those with caring responsibilities commonly noted anxiety around leaving work at unusual times and/or not being able to commit to working extra hours and/or at times that coincide with their caring responsibilities. Respondents were almost unanimous in reporting this culture positively as evidence of a high level of commitment to the work of the theatre, but were equally clear about the difficulty of reconciling it with their responsibilities as parents and/or carers.
Read the FULL INTERIM REPORT
The next stage of the research is or the team to consult with our partner theatres to identify possible alterations to their working practices to address these challenges. These will be trialled during the spring of 2017 and we will present a full report of the project’s findings at the end of the summer.
Dr. Tom Cornford,
Lecturer in Theatre and Performance, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Lead Researcher, PIPA Best Practice Research Project
Presentation of the Interim Report