PiPA’s survey into the impact of caring responsibilities on career progression in Dance, Music, Theatre and Opera.

Please download the full report here: Balancing Act Survey


PiPA and the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London, set out to investigate the link between caring responsibilities and career progression in the performing arts to inform necessary steps for a collective approach to increasing business resilience by supporting the carer and parent workforce in the industry.


This Balancing Act Survey provides evidence that a shift is needed to enable parents and carers to continue fulfilling careers as part of an engaged sector which makes a substantial contribution to the UK economy. Supportive working practices and effective policy changes, which should also focus on freelancers, can help to ensure that the performing arts sector is reflective of UK society.

Just over 2,500 UK workers from the performing arts (including over 1,000 parents and carers), across music, theatre and dance (including on- and off-stage workers) gave up their time to provide valuable data and a unique insight into the industries in the Balancing Act Survey. This in-depth approach gathered robust quantitative and qualitative data benchmarked against available national data on earnings, work-life balance and other indices where available. Work in the performing arts has particular requirements that present unique challenges.

These include:

  • Regular evening, weekend and bank holiday work.
  • Last-minute recruitment practices which can involve location changes. Previous PiPA research found that the performing arts has a culture that disadvantages those with caring responsibilities. 76% of participants in the 2016 PiPA Best Practice Survey reported regular last-minute changes to scheduling.
  • Long hours, particularly during weeks where rehearsals and training are combined with show times.
  • Touring: including national and international tours for short and long periods.
  • The set up and take down times of shows which include night time work.
  • London-centric work opportunities.

The key findings are summarised below, followed by a review of current UK work practice, showing that families across all occupations are under strain, struggle to maintain worklife balance and face increasing job insecurity. The Balancing Act Survey shows that these challenges hold particularly true in the performing arts, and that parents and carers are disproportionately affected.


The research identified that the biggest single factor for survey participants leaving the performing arts is because current working practices are incompatible with, and too challenging to combine with, other roles in life. Of those who took part in the survey, but had left the industry, 43% identified caring responsibilities as the main contributing factor followed by low income and financial instability (40%).


  • The median earnings for parents and carers are £20,000 per annum, 13% lower than for those without caring responsibilities (£23,000).
  • Median earnings for parents and carers working freelance are lowest, at £15,000, which is substantially lower than the estimated UK Living Wage (£17,550 or £20,572 in London).
  • Earnings from the performing arts are unlikely to cover expected outgoings for over a third of participants and nearly twice as many said that earnings do not cover unexpected expenses. Parents and carers were also least likely to agree that their basic needs are being met by their earnings.
  • Parents and carers seek proportionally more work outside the performing arts to boost their income. This in effect subsidises their careers more so than those without caring responsibilities. Overall, more than half of the participants were working in other fields to top up earnings.

Work in the performing arts is precarious, with one in three participants saying that they do not have a formal contract in place. Parents and carers are less likely to be in full-time employment (29% compared to 45% for those without caring responsibilities) and more likely to work part-time (17% versus 11%). They sacrifice job security and sufficient employment, as they are more likely to work freelance (58%) compared to those without caring responsibilities (48%).

Caring sacrifices were even more pronounced for women: more than 8 out of 10 women with caring responsibilities indicated that they either worked part-time or freelance, compared to 59% of other female participants. In contrast, the employment structure for men with caring responsibilities remained comparable to men without caring responsibilities.


A benchmark comparison of relevant survey indices showed that participants are very engaged in their work, yet experience high job insecurity, low levels of work-life balance and very low levels of employability – a combination which is likely to lead to burnout and impaired well-being unless people are being supported to meet their needs. This is particularly so for parents and carers who juggle multiple responsibilities.

Parents and carers are not working in the roles for which they were trained, and they regularly forgo career opportunities. 37% of participants with caring responsibilities had changed their work role and 45% changed their work location because of caring-related issues. Reasons for changing jobs and locations include needing to economise on living and childcare costs, and a dearth of flexible work practices.

76% of parents and carers had to turn down work because of childcare responsibilities (even higher for women at 80%); 68% were unable to attend auditions and other opportunities. More freelance workers with caring responsibilities have had to turn down work (85%) than other workers. Yet, 40% of parents and carers would prefer to boost their income by working an additional two days per week.

These findings identify that parents and carers are under-employed yet given adequate support would be willing and able to work more. Although some working patterns, such as evening work, are difficult to shift, other work practices can be reviewed, such as schedule and casting changes and notices, childcare provision for auditions and meetings as well as leadership and management training in more flexible and family-friendly working styles.


In terms of what helps parents and carers keep working, the data shows that 60% rely on support from family and partners, indicating significant social capital; less than 10% said that supportive employers and/ or colleagues had helped them working. The sector could benefit from a cultural shift towards supportive working which enables flexibility.

Participants indicated strong appetite for Shared Parental Leave. Only 10% have taken it, but over 60% would like to take it in the future – including 72% of the self-employed. It is likely that the financial cost of taking leave is too great at present, as are the logistics involved in applying, particularly for the self-employed.


The findings make a compelling case for action. This could include lobbying for better statistics on the performing arts and the self-employed more broadly, and a mandate to publish equal opportunities statistics. Policy changes could include provision and promotion of equal parental support structures for all employed and self-employed workers. Organisations could work towards increasing business resilience through the review and implementation of supportive work practices and robust evaluation to ensure continuous improvement of practice. The benefits of self-employment for those with caring responsibilities are the freedom, flexibility and choice of working patterns. However, the report identifies that the precarious nature of work combined with low wages are more likely to compel self-employed workers to accept unsatisfactory working conditions with negative financial and well-being consequences for themselves, their families and their dependents.

Further investigation into particularly vulnerable groups, including a focus on self-employed parents and carers, single parents, as well as those facing other forms of social exclusion would provide greater insight for the sector. Additionally, the impact of juggling multiple jobs and caring roles on health and well-being requires more in-depth analysis.

Please download the full report here: Balancing Act Survey