This week, we publish our survey-based report How We Work Now, highlighting the urgent need for collective action addressing the issues faced by screen industries’ carers and parents, exacerbated by COVID-19 yet long pre-dating the pandemic.
How We Work Now surveyed nearly 500 parents and carers working across the screen industries in the UK, launching on 17 May 2021, the day that cinemas re-opened in England, and closing on 5 July. The collected responses are calling on the fact that the screen industries remain largely incompatible with caring and parenting responsibilities, failing to enable and advocate for their workers with children or adult dependents, and highlighting the danger of losing whole skill-sets and experiences within the sector from an exodus of parents and carers who simply can no longer afford to walk this tightrope.
Respondents reflect on experiencing exponential exclusion as their caregiving intersects with other protected characteristics and socio-economic exclusions – e.g., for single parents, disabled parents and carers, and those having both parenting and caring (adult dependents) responsibilities. One of those socio-economic factors is the financial disparity in the sector – with the prevalent respondent cohort identifying as “low-income worker” – close to 40% are earning less than £20,000 a year, making their position within the screen industries already a difficult balancing act – exacerbated by intersecting COVID-19 impact with the cost of care itself and freelancing status.
Several practical recommendations are included in the report, aligned with the specific needs and desired actions expressed by survey’s respondents. Calling on structural changes – like, mitigating exclusionary hiring practices based on informal and reputational networks; as well as cultural changes – e.g., ending fetishisation of long-hours culture and expectation of availability, especially in the context of remote working, where online presence is stretched to 24/7.
73% of respondents would like to see training to pivot from its focus on workers to focus on those doing the hiring, contracting and HR, to ensure they are meeting the minimum requirements of implementing the Equality Act, paying a living wage, and recognising freelancers’ rights. Echoing this sentiment of exclusion from the industry’s information networks, respondents cited lack of visibility and representation within the screen sector.
How We Work Now findings urge the UK screen industries to finally “recognise that caregiving is an inequality that exacerbates in-work poverty and systemic exclusion”, and implement long-term solutions to make this sector viable for the parents and carers amongst the workforce.
It is imperative we listen to the experiences of our workforce, so we are pleased to support this timely research by Raising Films which recognises the incredibly important role of carers in our society, and the difficulties they face in balancing those duties with work. With our industry relying on a largely freelance workforce, the pandemic had a significant and negative impact, and these findings give us unique insight into how those with caring responsibilities have struggled to rejoin the workforce as the industry has reopened.