Locked Down and Locked Out – impact of Covid pandemic on mothers working in UK TV sector

Locked Down and Locked Out: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mothers working in the UK television industry has been published by The Institute for Screen Industries Research at The University of Nottingham, in partnership with Telly Mums Network, Share My Telly Job and Bectu.

The research throws a spotlight on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the careers, finances and mental health of mothers working in unscripted UK television and makes a series of recommendations for broadcasters, commissioners, regulators, and policymakers. It concludes:

‘The COVID-19 pandemic and associated government lockdowns have been nothing short of a disaster for mothers working in the UK television sector’.”

523 mothers working in unscripted TV entertainment, documentary, sport, news and current affairs, reality TV, studio quiz shows and online or branded content production took part in the survey which went out in March 2021 – one year on from the first national lockdown in the UK and on the eve of schools reopening in England after a third period of closure.

The findings revealed multiple impacts on their lives, including:

  • Nearly half (49%) of survey respondents said they had been unable to accept work due to childcare related issues.
  • Over 55% had been part of a production that was either cancelled or postponed and 54% said they had not been able to find enough work.
  • Of the 523 people who completed the survey, 29 said they had been made redundant and 61 said they had been let go early from a contract.
  • During the pandemic many mothers in TV often had to manage already gruelling workloads with increased childcare and housework. The continued significance of gendered expectations around childcare combined with a ‘lack of care’ culture within the industry, made this intolerable.
  • For women in unscripted television, the impact of the coronavirus restrictions on their stress levels and mental health was very clear. This ranged from a general overall experience of exhaustion, anxiety and feeling like a failure to the very serious and life-threatening, with some 28 mothers in the sample reporting that they had seriously considered ending their own life within the last 12 months.
  • Nearly 80% of the mothers in the sample said that they had been responsible for most of the home-schooling and childcare in their household, even though there was an almost 50/50 split as to who was the main earner.
  • Many mothers had to juggle work and childcare, while others were unable to work because of childcare. The first group had fewer financial worries but suffered serious consequences to their well-being and mental health. The latter group suffered more from financial hardship, something that was compounded for freelancers, single parents, those from a minoritised racial or lower socio-economic background, and disabled mothers.

There was a lack of understanding and accommodation from employers for additional childcare responsibilities and ongoing uncertainty caused by the fragility of the school ‘bubble’ system. This was felt to be the natural extension of a pre-existing lack of understanding and accommodation for caring responsibilities outside work that characterises the television industry. There is a strong sense among mothers that the industry does not care.

  • 61 per cent of all respondents said they have seriously considered leaving the industry during the pandemic.
  • Mothers felt they were treated as ‘disposable’ and often replaced by men or women without caring responsibilities, locked out from careers that have taken years to build.
  • 95% of respondents would like to see the continuation of Working From Home and access to more flexible ways of working post-pandemic.

The report provides some key recommendations for immediate and longer-term actions that must take place to mitigate the effects of disrupted working lives of mothers in TV in the future.

These include

  • changes in attitudes of partners, colleagues and friends to the gender-biased burdens that continue to be placed on mothers;
  • management training;
  • flexible working patterns such as job-shares, home working and flexitime;
  • programme budgets with built-in childcare provision and funding;
  • better compliance to production company and regulators’ obligations to the Equality Act 2010 and motherhood being included in diversity and inclusivity debates within the industry.

The report authors argue that “There is no excuse for the industry to continue to shirk it’s social responsibility to its workers in their roles as mothers and carers”.

Bectu would like you to promote this report more widely using the hashtag #LockedDownAndLockedOut where you can see more reactions to this.

This entry was posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Equality, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gender equality, Health & Safety, Long hours, Management, Mental Health, Remote working, Wellbeing, Work-life balance and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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