Theatres are being called upon to help tackle unfair working conditions for parents and carers by signing up to a new best-practice charter for the industry.

Published today (November 3) by Parents in Performing Arts, the charter is the culmination of a year-long research study into the industry’s provisions for parents and carers and comes alongside the study’s final findings.

The research included a survey of more than 950 theatre workers, the results of which were published earlier this year. Eight out of 10 self-employed parents who responded said they had had to turn down work because of their caring responsibilities.

As part of the study, PIPA also worked with 15 theatres across the UK, which as research partners trialled a number of ways to improve working practices for parents and carers.

The resulting nine-point, best-practice charter covers casting, staff recruitment, monitoring and changes to working conditions.

It includes recommendations for organisations and practitioners actively to commit to equal access, such as adopting more inclusive recruitment and casting processes, introducing more job shares and flexible working arrangements and appointing a named individual with responsibility for improving a theatre’s strategy around parents.

Practical measures highlighted in the report could include offering a free creche service during job interview processes to make them more accessible to parents, and giving workers with caring responsibilities advanced scheduling, truncated rehearsal hours or shorter technical rehearsal days.

The recommendations in full

  • Adopt recruitment practices, including casting and programming, to enable access to job opportunities for parents and carers
  • Consider making roles open to job share and flexible working
  • Review current policies to ensure the needs of parents and carers are considered and wherever possible supported
  • Identify areas for change and improvement
  • Offer programmes and activities that promote equal access for parents and carers
  • Share best practice and training with the wider performing arts community
  • Have at least one named individual sufficiently senior to implement strategies for change and take responsibility
  • Set targets and monitor progress
  • Visibly promote better working practices for all parents and carers across an organisation including in external communications

It is the first major announcement from PIPA since it announced in September that it was becoming a limited company in a bid to provide a long-term solution for the sector.

Organisations that sign up to the charter will be awarded a PIPA kite mark, with 25 testing it out in the first year.

Theatres wishing to sign up must submit an action plan and set at least two targets based on the charter, as well as completing surveys at the beginning and end of the year.

PIPA said it was committed to supporting organisations that sign up, and will also offer a business support programme to provide a framework and strategies to help put the charter’s recommendations in place.

Launching the charter, PIPA co-founder Cassie Raine said that when PIPA started the research project it had felt like a “huge leap into the unknown”.

“It wasn’t that long ago that caring responsibilities were invisible and supporting carers in the performing arts was not a consideration,” she said.

”Once organisations started to review their working practices it snowballed. The original idea was to trial one solution at each theatre organisation, but very rapidly organisations were exploring solutions to overcome barriers faced by carers and parents whenever the opportunity arose – and are continuing to do so,” she added.