Equity response to the Covid Certification Call for Evidence

Earlier this month Equity responded as a union to the Government's call for evidence on COVID-status certification. This is the union's submission in full.

QUESTION 1

Which of the following best describes the capacity in which you are responding to this call for evidence?

j) Trade union or staff association - we represent 48,000 performers and creative workers across the UK including actors, classical and contemporary singers and dancers, live entertainment workers, theatre directors and designers, stage management and many other professions in the TV, film, theatre, music, audio industries and allied sectors.

QUESTION 2

In your view, what are the key considerations, including opportunities and risks, associated with a potential COVID-status certification scheme? We would welcome specific reference to:

c) operational / delivery considerations

There is a question as to how COVID certification could or would relate to the Roadmap already announced by the Government and the specific 'no earlier than' dates that have been indicated for DCMS sector workplaces. Currently most live performance venues are expecting to be able to open towards the end of June at the earliest while all UK adults are expected to have been offered at least a first dose of vaccine by July.  This suggests that a certification scheme may not be necessary for venues in the live performance sector venues where our members work. We would also be interested to learn how a COVID certification regime would work across the four nations of the UK or across the Common Travel Area. This point would be of specific interest to our members in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but also to our members who engage in touring work - not just theatre, but also dance, comedians, singers and many others.

 d) considerations relating to the operation of venues that could use a potential COVID-status certification scheme

COVID certification would affect both workers and audiences in our industry e.g. people attending shows in a theatre, performances in a pub, club or other live venue as well as those working on film or TV sets, in dance studios or indeed delivering performance or creative work or teaching in schools, social care settings or many other places.  The creative industries are a significant industry and there will be on one size fits all approach that can possibly accommodate the range of workplaces and venues where our members work. For venues such as pubs which are able to open in a limited fashion in the coming weeks and before the wider live performance sector is able to open, it may be useful to follow the model that has been used in film and television and other sectors including professional/Premier League football, where testing is already in place to assist in making workplaces COVID safe.

 e) considerations relating to the responsibilities or actions of employers under a potential COVID-status certification scheme

Equity has been able to negotiate agreements with employers across film and television to enable safe working practices throughout the pandemic and similarly in the live performance industry we have worked with theatres and producers to facilitate recorded performances. In both sectors our members' health and safety has been our utmost concern but we have also committed ourselves as a union to finding solutions in order to enable as many employers as possible to offer work. We have supported the establishment of testing regimes as the fairest and most effective means of identifying risk in these workplaces as well as supporting social distancing through appropriate adaptations to the working practices on sets/in rehearsal spaces/in venues.

Across all workplaces it will be crucial for the Government to ensure that employers are not able to take advantage of any certification regime in order to avoid their responsibilities under Equalities law or any aspect of Health and Safety or Employment law. In particular, a certification regime should not enable any form of workplace discrimination.

 f) ethical considerations

g) equalities considerations

h) privacy considerations

Certification regimes predicated on vaccination are likely to run counter to the pursuit of equality in our workplaces, especially with regards to pregnant workers, disabled workers and younger workers who will not be offered vaccination until towards the end of the roll out and may as a result face discrimination when seeking work. Equity has also been contacted by members who have expressed concerns about the ethical and privacy implications of any such regime, especially for those workers with health conditions such as allergies which normally would not need to be disclosed to a potential employer. The creative sector is a highly competitive job market with many existing inequalities and anything that places marginalised groups at a further disadvantage would be a major concern for Equity. We have already seen that 44% of black women have been forced out of creative freelance jobs and it is likely that there will be a similar exodus of working class talent and pressures on working parents in the industry in the months ahead.

QUESTION 3

Are there any other comments you would like to make to inform the COVID-status certification review?

We would like to understand further if there is a possibility that a certification regime based on testing could facilitate performers and creative workers being able to travel outside of the UK for work quarantine free in the months ahead. The film and television industry often makes use of locations outside of the UK and many other artforms such as touring, circus and variety work in holiday resorts require our members to be able to travel relatively freely and at short notice. Given the barriers already in place because of the lack of creative work permits with EU countries, our members would appreciate any other measures that could enable them to gain work.​