Know your rights around low and no pay work

Professionally Made Professionally Paid

Equity members are professionals: skilled individuals who bring their experience and talent to every job. But low and no pay is a major issue for many.

Too often performers and creatives are expected to give their time and energy for free, exchanging hard work for 'exposure'. Depending on the circumstances of the engagement, this can be illegal.

This particularly affects members at the start of their careers, and those without savings or economic support also find themselves priced out of the industry.

Performers and creatives deserve to be treated with the respect workers in other industries take as a given. You deserve decent pay and conditions of work. That’s what Professionally Made, Professionally Paid is fighting for. 

We campaign for fair terms and conditions across the entertainment industry, including in theatre and film. Hundreds of productions and producers have signed up to use our Equity Fringe Agreement or an Equity House Agreement, which has brought more £millions in wages to performers and stage managers. 

We have helped secure your rights and improve conditions within the sectors, through holiday, pension enrolment, overtime, sickness provisions, building better work-life balance, and ensuring health and safety and dignity at work are taken seriously by employers.

Play your part by spreading the word — to your fellow cast and crew members, to audience members, and to employers.

What's the problem?

Low and no pay is a serious issue in sections of the entertainment industry. Emerging professionals are regularly told that they should expect to work for free in order to establish their careers, or that poor terms and conditions of employment are just ‘how it is’ in this industry. Aside from theatre, Equity members working on student and independent films, TV, music videos, in dance, as singers and models have all faced requests to provide their professional services for low or no pay.

Equity believes that this is an unfair and unsustainable trend which is damaging to the industry. Equity members are skilled professionals who deserve to be paid for the work they do, just like workers in every other sector of the economy.

Your right to national minimum wage and holiday pay

Isn’t unpaid work illegal?

Yes! The National Minimum Wage Act 1998 makes it illegal to pay adult workers less than the minimum wage, with a small number of exceptions relating to the Armed Forces or genuine volunteer work. There are no special exemptions for the entertainment industry.

The right to the National Minimum Wage depends on being categorised a ‘worker’ in employment law terms. That means there will be some circumstances where Equity members are not covered, such as instances of genuine self-employment or as participants in genuinely collaborative partnership work where the nature of the structure means nobody is technically working for anyone else.

It’s important to remember that just because entertainment industry workers are most commonly categorised as self-employed for tax and national insurance purposes, it doesn’t automatically follow that they are self-employed for the purposes of employment law. The genuinely self-employed are excluded from a number of statutory rights workers have access to – including the right to holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage.

A spate of recent employment tribunal claims have highlighted the spread of bogus self-employment by organisations that aim to deny workers their statutory rights by incorrectly designating them as self-employed. It’s important to note that when assessing whether or not someone is a worker or self-employed, the test is the reality of the job and not the label chosen by the engager in the contract. 

When producers don't pay workers, 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 remunerated 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 governs a worker’s right to paid holiday within a contract, or pay in lieu of holiday if it cannot be taken within the contract.

How do I determine my employment status?

Employment status is not a matter of choice – it’s a matter of law. This means that even if you have signed a contract that states you are not a worker and therefore not entitled to holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage, if you should be defined as a worker then you are still entitled to it.

You can test your worker status by thinking about these questions:

•Do you have a genuine, unrestricted right to provide a substitute to do the work?
•Can you control how and when the work is done?
•Does the job involve you taking on a financial burden, or business risk?
•Are you responsible for your own expenses?

This is not an exhaustive list and there are a number of other important considerations, so always contact us for advice. We treat all calls as confidential and will not tell your employer you have contacted us.

Contact us

About theatre profit shares

The vast majority of engagements for stage managers and performers are at least subject to Working Time Regulations and National Minimum Wage.

Equity’s experience is that some engagements may appear to be profit shares or purport to be profit shares, but are not a genuine profit share.

Genuine profit share productions are extremely rare. These are when a collective body of participants equally and cooperatively manage, control and are responsible for its business and affairs, including key decision making.

Equity’s experience is that many engagements which appear to be profit share or are labelled or designated as a ‘profit share’ are not genuine profit shares, and those engaged would hold worker status and therefore statutory rights to National Minimum Wage and paid holiday or holiday payment in lieu.

Members should carefully consider whether profit share engagements offered are genuine and contact us for advice and support.


Report Bad Practice

If you’d believe a castings or job adverts may be inappropriate use our reporting tool so we can look into it.

Form of engagement and guide

What do you need help with?

Man readig a script

Your right to equal treatment

Find out about your right to equal treatment, the Equality Act and how to get help if you experience discrimination. 

Your right to equal treatment