Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation

Legal Information

Professionally Made Professionally PaidThe Law

When producers don't pay performers, whether or not they've agreed to share the profits, they are breaking the following laws:

1. The National Minimum Wage Act 1998, which states "A person who qualifies for the national minimum wage shall be renumerated by his employer in respect of his work in any pay reference period at a rate which is not less than the national minimum wage".

2. The Working Time Regulations 1998, which states "A worker's working time, in any reference period which is applicable in this case shall not exceed an average of 48 hours for each seven days".

Equity members are not breaking these laws when they work for free, nor are they breaking any Equity rules.

Successful Legal Cases

In some cases, Equity has supported members to take legal cases around Low Pay No Pay issues. In March 2014, Equity successfully supported members in an Employment Tribunal claim for the minimum wage on a fringe theatre profit share production.

Four actors had been engaged by Victor Sobchak and Shaban Arifi, trading as Theatre Collections Limited, to take part in a production of the play Sappho at the Lord Stanley Pub Theatre, London. Following a series of problems during rehearsals, the play was cancelled and the performers were not paid anything for their time in rehearsals.

The Employment Tribunal found that the performers on a profit share were entitiled to the minimum wage for the hours they worked, and ordered the respondents to pay all their overdue wages.

Other examples from the film industry can be found in Equity's Spring 2013 Magazine and Equity's Spring 2011 Magazine.

Our sister unions have also taken legal action in this area. Here are examples from BECTU and the NUJ.

See case studies for low and no pay.

Equity Members and Collaborative Working

Equity members often involve themselves in collaboratively run productions, which may be described in a number of ways: co-ops, profit shares, and collectives, among many others. In reality, the most likely legal status for this activity is as a partnership.

In genuinely collaborative setups such as partnerships, it is unlikely that the minimum wage obligations apply.

Equity is ully supportive of genuine collaborations, but urges members to beware of bogus collaborations. If you are in doubt about the true status of a job advertised as a collaboration, please contact Equity.

If you would like further advice on how to set up collaborative working arrangements, the recently formed Collaborative Theatre Makers Network is a useful source of information.