ABTT Launches New Guidance Note on Well-being

6 May 2022

The Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) is very pleased to be able to release their first guidance note on Mental Health and Well-Being to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week 9th-15th May, 2022.

ABTT Guidance Note W1 Mental Health & Well-being: Supporting Freelancers in the Workplace captures guidance for good practice developed across the theatre industry by many organisations and individuals and places it firmly within the Code of Practice for the Theatre Industry which is produced by the ABTT with the support of the national Theatre Safety Committee, and which is recognised by the HSE as an Established Standard.

In 2021 the ABTT joined with AAPTLE (Alliance of Associations and Professionals in Theatre and Live Events) to launch the findings of the Backstage Mental Health Well-Being Evaluation. Vital data was published on the prevalence of poor mental health backstage and how the pandemic has further affected the workforce. The survey revealed that 69% of respondents identified themselves as ‘freelancers’, and that there is a significantly higher prevalence of poor mental health amongst freelance staff.

In response to the evaluation, the ABTT has issued its first mental health and well-being guidance note, focussed on providing guidance to support freelancers in the workplace. Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work, but self-employed freelance workers largely manage themselves. When they join production and operational teams, there should be the same duty of care for them as afforded permanent PAYE staff. The guidance note offers assistance and advice on how to adopt more proactive policies to support the wellbeing of freelance staff at work.  It is part of the ABTT’s on-going commitment to promote awareness around well-being and complements our recently launched training initiative for Mental Health First Aid.

Mig Burgess Walsh, who edited ABTT Guidance Note W1, will be presenting a seminar to launch the publication at PLASA Focus in Leeds on Wednesday 11th May between 12:15 and 13:15.

In the following month Mig will be discussing ABTT Guidance Note W1: Mental Health & Well-being: supporting Freelancer in Workplace at the Focus on Freelancers Seminar to be held between 14:50 and 15:50 on the first day of the ABTT Theatre Show at Alexandra Palace, 22nd & 23rd June.

Mig Burgess Walsh – (ABTT Co-Chair and Senior Teaching Fellow at the Guildford School of Acting) stated:

 “I am so happy and excited to finally be able to launch with the ABTT its first well-being guidance note. As is well known, I have a passion and commitment towards improving awareness and provision for mental health for backstage workers. I am focussed on driving forward proactive ways of encouraging people and businesses in our sector to do more to create a cultural change in mental health and well-being support.  This guidance note is a direct response to the survey data I have collected on this topic. I hope it can form the basis for workplaces to begin to start prioritising provision and meaningful policy changes towards well-being and mental health in the workplace. Theatre and live events are created and made by human beings, we need to commit to creating a safe, kind, stress free workplace for our workers so that the people can continue to do great work while feeling more appreciated and supported. I am very much looking forward to continuing my work on this topic with the ABTT and producing follow up guidance notes on this subject”

Robin Townley – ABTT Chief Executive added:

“The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: ‘2(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.’

I am so grateful to Mig for drawing together the first ABTT Guidance Note specifically focussed on Welfare and to all the individuals and organisations operating in the theatre industry who have been developing the good practice that the Guidance Note captures and sets out. This publication is the first in what will become the ‘W’ series providing a library of guidance on welfare to complement the material the ABTT has already published and will continue to develop on Health and Safety. It is important to note that at the core of the Code of Practice of which the new Guidance Note W1 will become part, the Technical Standards for Places of Entertainment, the ‘Yellow Book,’ specifically states in the second line of the Preface that ‘Good management is essential to ensure safety and health and welfare…’ Our thanks go to Mig and all her collaborators for creating a new reference to support this goal.”

You can  download Guidance Note W1: Mental Health and Well-Being here.

For further information please contact office@abtt.org.uk / 020 7242 9200.