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Equity launches campaign against insurance prejudice

9 August 2012

Charging actors and other performance professionals higher insurance premiums or refusing them insurance altogether has been called "groundless prejudice" by one actor because it is based not on data about actors' claims history but on guess work about actors' lives, Equity has discovered.

Equity members routinely pay higher car insurance premiums because the insurance industry considers them to be a high risk, but this view is based not on statistical data but what appears to be guess-work about the driving habits of actors. Members have been complaining to their union that their car insurance is unreasonably high. To try to find out why, Equity wrote to Otto Thoresen, Director General of the Association of British Insurers, earlier this year.

He wrote back confirming that actors must expect to pay higher premiums and explained: “premiums are based on a number of risk factors, among which is the occupation of the driver. Where insurers' actuarial data demonstrates an increased risk, they set premiums which reflect that risk.

“For actors, we have been told that they are much more likely to be involved in a collision than for most other occupations. This is probably due to their unusual working hours, which leads them to be driving late at night when roads are more dangerous; the need to travel long distances touring or working away from home; the potential for large claims associated with high-earning performers; and the possibility that sharing vehicles when giving colleagues a lift home can lead to expensive claims.”

Equity wrote back asking Mr Thoresen to share the “actuarial data” which demonstrates that actors are a higher insurance risk. His response was surprising.  He wrote that “no single insurer has a large enough number of actors as customers to be able to draw reliable statistical conclusions from their claims history”. He added, “there is little likelihood of any insurer being able to build long-term reliable data from the claims history of actors”, and that underwriters “have to draw conclusions about the increased risk from what they know”.

What does all this mean? Well, far from basing the insurance risk of actors on “actuarial data”, as Mr Thorensen claimed in his first letter, it now appears that underwriters base their view of actors on nothing more than vague notions of actors driving late at night and giving lifts to fellow actors. Some might call this nothing more than prejudice.

Before publishing this article Equity sent it to Mr Thoresen for his comment. He wrote: ““Insurers price risk and the premium paid reflects the risk.  Many factors are taken into consideration and occupation is one of many that insurers will consider when setting a premium. The premium actors pay reflects the fact that they are more likely to be involved in a collision than other occupations. This is reflected in their premium price.” 

Equity has been so appalled at the off-handed way the insurance industry has dealt with our enquires that we wrote to the Financial Ombudsman Service. They responded that they do not have the authority  to investigate an entire industry, but can take up the case of an individual. If you think that you have been treated particularly badly by an insurance company just because you are an actor put your complaint to the Financial Services Ombudsman at

Equity President  Malcolm Sinclair is backing the campaign: “At the last meeting of the Equity Council, as soon as insurance for actors was mentioned a catalogue of horror stories came out. Being charged high insurance premiums or being refused insurance altogether is something which blights actors’ lives and I am appalled that it is based not on clear data but on supposition and prejudice. This must stop and I appeal to Equity members to make their views known to the Association of British Insurers.”

Interviewed in The Stage, Equity member Branko Tomovic told how he was refused car hire because of insurance problems: “The company I spoke to didn’t even ask me what I was using the car for. Many other professions have the same schedule as an actor. Any self-employed person has to be flexible and be able to work at night or in the day.”

Actor and Equity Council member Jonathan Coy raised the issue of insurance at July’s meeting of the Council. He told The Stage: “I had to get a broker to ring round and try and find me a better deal on my home insurance. He halved the amount by finding a company that didn’t ask what my professional was. There is groundless prejudice against actors in the insurance market.”

Equity will continue to campaign to get the insurance industry to treat actors and other performance professionals fairly. Meanwhile, if you have a view on how the insurance industry treats Equity members you can put it to the Association of British Insurers at

If you are having insurance difficulties, try Equity’s insurance broker First Act on 020 8686 5050.


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Did anything come of this campaign?

Name: Jonathan Harden

Date: 29 March 2016

Where are we now? Are there any recommended insurers?

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Car insurance


Date: 08 February 2013

If the insurance industry is not allowed to discriminate between the sexes how can it be allowed to discriminate upon what is no more than a whim? Most actors are out of work much if not most of the time! Yet we go on paying over the odds during those periods - we can't predict when they will be. It is just plain extortion.

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Car Insurance


Date: 08 November 2012

About time lets really go for this.Why not join forces with the Musicians Union & others connected with this huge problem.My son is studying music in London 7 was quoted £7000 .When he said he wanted to be a professional musician he was told he would be uninsurable &was advised to lie.That of course means he would be breaking their rules & the law.Its time the ins. companies sorted this whole problem out.

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Variety acts treat badly by insurance companies

Name: Al Robson

Date: 30 August 2012

I have a small van and have to have commercial insurance, most insurers will not touch me with a barge pole, the ones who will insure me charge nearly double the rate they would charge me if i said I was a painter and decorator. This has gone on far too long, some Acts have to lie to get insured, I have a clean licence, full no claims bonus and 30 years driving experience, and I drive when most people are in bed asleep, surely rush hour driving is more of a risk.

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I thought Hencilla Canworth had this covered

Name: Sarah Ford

Date: 21 August 2012

This has been a long festering issue for all performers. A lot of members are saying there profession is a second job they might have, like painter/decorator or secretary just to get a realistic premium.

I was lead to understand some years ago that Hencilla Canworth now had this actuarial data, but this doesn't seem to be the case. Two years ago my car insurance shot up and I had to go else where. I've been with Admiral for 2 years now but the premium seems high for my age, age of car and driving history. Now that I have had the pleasure of someone driving into me on Friday and writing my car off, the car hire firm (that will be paid by the other driver as they admit full liability)still would not insure me because of my occupation. Admiral had to send a fax through to say they I would still be covered. We are high risk, apparently, as sports men and women, driving instructors, gamblers and musicians!

Surely between the MU and Equity we have enough members to prove we are no more dangerous than doctors. I really do despair this whole scenario. I will contact the Association of British Insurers above but I really am not expecting much.

Many thanks for this article because it is high time this insurance prejudice is whacked on it's nonsensical head!

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Some insurers are ok - why is that?


Date: 13 August 2012

I have been insured with Privilege for a long time on a very reasonable premium (admittedly with 25+ years of driving experience, a clean licence and a full no-claims bonus). How come they are able do this for me? Should Equity talk to them as they may have more actors on their books and a better idea of these drivers' claims histories?

I used to be with the AA years ago, and rang them to say I'd become an actor. They initially whacked up the premium but I asked to talk to a supervisor. Luckily he had a younger sister starting out as an actor and totally understood my explanations, reinstating the lower premium. But not long after that the AA changed to refusing all actors.

I think this is a really important campaign as most actors are incredibly careful drivers in my experience. And as for this nonsense about "...but you might have that Matt Smith in your car if you get a job on Doctor Who..." - don't they know how stars are looked after? You are more likely to have him in your car if you're related to him, and as far as I know there's no move to slap massive premiums on Matt Smith's mum!

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Equity launches campaign against insurance prejudice

Name: Ian Seale

Date: 09 August 2012

This is something that we expect Equity to be acting upon in the interests of it's members.
We've asked the question Why? And they have no answer.

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