Balancing Act: Take Two report highlights deepening struggles for parents and carers in performing arts amid industry uncertainty

New report highlights unsustainable conditions and devastating dilemmas for parents, carers and the wider workforce: 

  • Parents and carers pay penalty has more than doubled to £7,000 (since 2018) compared to workers without caring responsibilities
  • Eight out of ten women working in the arts had to cut down working hours to manage caring responsibilities
  • Two-thirds of freelance performing arts workers say that having a child would limit their careers
  • Women and freelancers face the brunt of unpredictable, precarious and unstainable working conditions

The second edition of the Parents and Carers in Performing Arts (PiPA) benchmark survey Balancing Act: Take Two reveals a concerning deterioration in conditions for parents and carers within the performing arts sector.  

 Birkbeck, University of London, was commissioned by PiPA to lead the research which underscores a growing pay disparity, escalating rates of underemployment, and the significant toll of work-life imbalance on mental health and overall well-being. 1,250 UK workers from the performing arts, on-stage, backstage, administrative and executive, employed and self-employed, including over 1,000 parents and carers, took part in the Balancing Act: Take Two survey.  

Key findings: 

  • Mounting Financial Strain: Parents and carers now face a staggering pay penalty of £7,000, more than doubling since 2018, yet almost nine out of ten people (88%) have had to turn down work due to caring responsibilities. 
  • Hidden Hardships: Parents and carers are taking drastic measures to make ends meet. One in four people had to borrow money from friends or family. A small but significant number of people (4%) have had to use a food bank and or have sold or released equity from their homes (2%).  
  • Plummeting Mental Health and Well-Being: Six out of ten people were concerned about losing their job in the near future compared to four out of ten (44%) in 2018. Six out of ten people (60%) reported difficulty managing both work and family compared to 48% in 2018.  
  • Impact on Family Planning: Six out of ten employees (63%) and seven out of ten (71%) freelancers said working in the performing arts affected their decision-making about starting a family. Six out of ten freelancers (64%) believe that having a child would limit their career opportunities. 
  • Increased employer support: Almost three out of ten people (29%) report that a supportive employer had helped them continue working in 2023, compared to just 4% in 2018.  



Cassie Raine, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Parents and Carers in Performing Arts comments: 

“It’s encouraging that we are seeing evidence of increased support from employers but it’s not enough - the situation is desperate for so many families. People can't work because they're looking after loved ones, so they're left with no choice but to turn down jobs, borrow money, and even rely on food banks. These are tough times for the sector but parents and carers can’t be the collateral damage, especially as we have the solutions at PiPA that we know make a difference.”   


  •  Provide flexible, ad-hoc childcare provision that is subsidised and accessible for freelancers. 
  •  Embed inclusive working practices and additional support, including freelancers with caring responsibilities. 
  •  Deliver return to work provision for freelancers after pregnancy and/ or other caring-related leave 
  •  Monitor and publish data on caring responsibilities and people metrics across the sector, including freelancers. 
  •  Develop equitable parental and caring policies for freelancers, including paternity allowance, shared parental leave, and carers leave. 

Professor Almuth McDowall from Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology led the research. She says: 

“As an academic, lifelong supporter of the arts and former dancer it was sobering to analyse the data. Working conditions in the performing arts are not sustainable. It’s now more difficult than five years ago to sustain a living wage. Conditions have become more insecure and precarious, and people’s family planning choices are affected. If we want work on the stage to reflect UK society, then urgent action is required from government, policy makers and employers”.  

Take the first steps today

Performing arts orgnisations can take an immediate step.  Small organisations are invited to  sign up to PiPA Foundations. This is a self-led, training programme consisting of five online modules that can be accessed at any time, from anywhere. PiPA provide workbooks, practical resources and an action planning tool. The cost for PiPA Foundations is £350 for organisations with an annual turnover of less than £1,000,000. For larger organisations the PiPA Charter Programme starts from £500 and includes a dedicated relationship manager to support the journey towards becoming a family-friendly employer. PiPA is committed to making changes across the industry with a wide range of partners.  Cassie Raine notes that if affordability is a barrier to any organisation, please get in touch as there is subsidy available. PiPA can be contacted at