Know your rights to avoid exploitation and help protect others working in the industry

Advice for working on non-Equity agreements in theatre (including Opera, Dance and Panto)

We are aware that there are many instances when you will be working in the industry on a contract that has not been negotiated by Equity.

When working on a non-Equity contract, it’s important to know your rights so that you won’t be exploited, and you can help protect others working in the industry.

While many producers pay fairly and give decent working conditions, there are some taking advantage of our members or breaching basic employment law.

We believe that this is an unfair and unsustainable trend which is damaging to the industry. Equity members are skilled professionals who deserve to be paid fairly and given dignified working conditions, just like workers in every other sector of the economy.

While we have made great strides to improve conditions in the sector, our members are still frequently being denied their statutory employment rights. Importantly, low and no pay perpetuate inequality, disproportionately impacting on disabled, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic populations and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Asserting your rights is not just about you – it’s protecting others from future exploitation.

Typically, performers and stage management engaged in theatre productions will hold what’s known as ‘worker status’ in employment law. This means if you’re engaged in one of those roles, you would most likely be self-employed for tax and National Insurance purposes but a ‘Limb B’ worker in employment law.

It’s important to note that when assessing whether or not someone is a worker or not, the test is the reality of the job and not the label chosen by the engager in the contract.


Further advice

Decorative image: Actor outside stage door

Dignity at work

Advice if you are being bullied, harassed or treated unfairly at work – and if you’re experiencing abuse at home.

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Legal support

If you’re a full Equity member, we can help with legal claims for breach of contract, claims for personal injury and accidents at work.