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25 theatres across the UK will trial a new employment charter, to help ensure they are “as inclusive as possible to carers and parents”.

Phot of parent

Theatres should proactively make all roles open to flexible working and job shares to make the sector accessible to people with caring responsibilities, a campaign group has argued.

They should also consider offering free creche services during auditions and have at least one named person take responsibility for ensuring equal access to work.

The recommendations form part of Parents in the Performing Arts (PIPA)’s nine-point Charter of Best Practice, published today, which will be implemented by 25 theatres across the UK in its first year.

The Charter aims to ensure venues and performing arts companies become “as inclusive as possible to carers and parents”.

“PIPA’s research has shown that in many cases, simple changes to theatres’ working practices can make them significantly more inclusive,” said Amanda Parker, Chair of PIPA. “But it also shows that some forms of exclusion are more complex and can only be addressed by systemic alterations to working cultures.

“We hope all performance organisations will appreciate the value of ensuring the UK’s cultural offer is accessible to everyone – both audiences and arts makers.”

Research programme

The Charter emerges out of a two-stage research project, which took place over the past 12 months.

Conducted in partnership with a consortium of 15 theatres, led by The Old Vic in London, it aimed to assess barriers to access for those with caring responsibilities in the industry and trial a series of specific workplace remedies.

A report reveals 81% of self-employed survey respondents indicated they had turned down work because of a caring responsibility, and two-thirds of all respondents agreed that men and women are treated differently by the organisation they work for after becoming a parent.

Theatres including Hull Truck and Birmingham Rep then trialled a series of interventions, including truncated rehearsal schedules, creche provision for auditions, breast-feeding facilities and job sharing in stage management, as potential solutions.

PIPA’s evaluation found such interventions were popular, but that there was “considerable work to be done” in relation to logistics, liability and funding in order to implement some of the solutions.

The Charter

PIPA’s newly published guidelines cover best practice on casting, recruitment, monitoring and working practices.

Theatres are recommended to adapt their recruitment process – encompassing casting and programming – to ensure they welcome and enable the widest possible talent pool.

They should communicate the openness of their roles clearly in job advertisements, and share best-practice, tools and training throughout the wider performing arts community.

In addition, theatres should have at least one named individual in the organisation who is sufficiently senior to implement strategies to achieve change, and promote better working practices for all carers and parents across
the organisation, including board level.

Organisations that wish to sign up to the Charter are invited to complete and submit a baseline survey, set at least two targets, submit an action plan and commit to completing an endline survey.

Those that meet the conditions will be awarded a PIPA kite mark.

Commenting on the Charter, Kate Varah, Executive Director at The Old Vic, said: “We’ve been incredibly proud to act as lead organisation for PIPA since their inception, and to support them in developing the campaign. Building the visibility of these issues and the credibility of PIPA throughout the industry has been exciting and not before time.

“We are also pleased to have taken part in their best practice research project and to have undertaken our own practical trials to work in ways that are more supportive of the needs of parents and carers in the workplace.”

A PIPA steering group will report on progress across the industry annually, and share benchmarked data and celebrate examples of success.

PIPA is currently exploring working practices in the music and dance sectors.