Child Protection Awareness in Music

Child Protection Awareness Training (CPAT)

The Musicians' Union recommends that members who teach are up to date with the legislation regarding safeguarding children.

The MU has developed a bespoke online CPAT course, Child Protection Awareness In Music, which was developed with the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) in partnership with ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) and MusicLeader.

A series of videos created as part of this valuable online course can be viewed below.

Video resources


Video 1: Introduction

Video 3: Inappropriate demonstration of technique

Video 5: Responding to concerns about abuse


Video 2: Inappropriate communication with children

Video 4: Dealing with a difficult group situation

Case studies

Below are some case studies surrounding child protection issues, highlighting the importance of having Child Protection Awareness Training.

You might not be the only one with the concerns

Tina Smith, a guitar teacher working in a Secondary school, noticed that Lewis, a year 11 pupil who usually enjoyed his music lessons, started to turn up late and sometimes missed a lesson completely. He was looking increasingly anxious and tired and so Tina eventually asked him if everything was OK. Although Lewis said everything was fine, Tina was not satisfied.

Tina had never had to deal with something like that before. However, last year she attended an MU child protection workshop where such situations were discussed and advice and guidance was given to teachers on how to deal with them. Tina learned from the workshop that she couldn’t ignore her gut feelings even if they turned out to be unfounded and so she decided to raise her concerns about Lewis with the class teacher. She also made a note of her concerns to her line manager. Tina knew that the as an MU member she could contact the MU for reassurance and also that there was a NSPCC free helpline to support her if she felt the situation hadn’t been handled correctly.

The class teacher had identified similar behaviour in the classroom and was grateful that Tina had raised her concerns about Lewis with the school. It turned out that Lewis was becoming stressed by the volume of his GCSE coursework and he just needed to be supported and understood by his teachers until his GCSEs were over. After his exams Lewis went back to enjoying music and his guitar lessons again.

Emotional abuse – not the usual suspects

Anya Rozenthuler, a singing teacher who runs an extracurricular Saturday morning choir for gifted and talented pupils in a junior school, had grown increasingly uneasy about Jessie, one of the youngest and most recent members to join the choir. Anya noticed when Jessie was talking to her mother at the drop-off and collection times that Jessie’s behaviour was very compliant and that her mum was unusually vocal about what a prodigy her daughter was turning out to be. These remarks left Anya feeling uncomfortable, especially as she noticed that as soon as the mother left, Jessie’s whole demeanour changed. She became anxious and subdued and would frequently say she had lost her music when the time came to audition for parts.

Anya was nervous about raising the issues with Jessie’s mother, as she knew her mother was a local GP. Anya didn’t think her mother was the 'type' to be emotionally abusing her daughter and so she pushed her concerns to the back of her mind.

A couple of weeks later Anya attended an MU child protection workshop where she was surprised to hear one of her colleagues had experienced a similar situation. Anya learned that child abuse exists across all sectors of society and that the concerns she had were valid and needed to be acted on.

Knowing the facts, she felt much more confident with discussing her concerns with her line manager. The line manager helped her think about the conversation she might have with the Jessie’s mum. Anya was surprised how well this went and how Jessie’s mum responded to her concerns. Jessie’s mum explained that she had been so busy with work lately that she hadn’t been picking up on Jessie’s anxiety but now she said she realised that her comments weren’t helpful. They asked Jessie what she wanted and she said she would like to come along just to sing but not to take any of the lead parts. Once relieved of the pressure to perform Jessie relaxed and was able to really give her all to the sessions. 

Physical abuse – the importance of sharing concern

Jamie Sheriff, a percussion workshop leader, works in a couple of the local secondary schools running one-off workshops on African drumming. One day, Shabbana, a year 13 pupil in one of his lessons, turned up late for the workshop and appears flustered. As she started playing, her sleeve rode up and James noticed a cluster of bruises on the underside of her forearm. Later, when Shabbana packed away the drums, Jamie asked her how she got the bruises. Shabbana said that her brother had grabbed her arm to stop her from stepping out in front of a car. Jamie wasn’t entirely convinced Shabbana was telling the truth but then remembered that Shabbana’s brother used to get into all sorts of scrapes when he was a teenager so he thought perhaps he was making a fuss about nothing.

At an MU child protection workshop, Jamie received some information about the signs of physical abuse and the importance of needing to share any concerns with another member of staff in order to get another perspective. From the workshop Jamie realised that there might be more to Shabbana’s story. He knows that it isn’t his role to make a judgement about what may or may not have happened but it is his role to pass on what he as observed and talked about with Shabbana.

Equipped with the new knowledge from the workshop, Jamie decides to speak to his line manager about his concerns even though the incident had happened several weeks ago. He also learns useful information about how to frame a question should he suspect abuse in the future. He knew that by keeping quiet there was a chance that Shabbana might be at further risk.

As a result of raising his concerns about Shabbana, his line manager contacted the school about Jamie’s concern. The school already had a safeguarding plan in place for Shabbana. They thanked Jamie for his vigilance and professionalism and asked him to make a retrospective note of what he observed and the conversation he had with Shabbana.

Facebook – teacher/pupil boundaries

Noah Goldstein, a 22 year old rapper and DJ, runs songwriting workshops with youth groups and sixth form colleges. Last year he attended an MU child protection workshop because the charity he had recently started working for had asked him to go. When it was suggested that Noah attended the workshop he was quite reluctant as he didn’t understand what child protection and safeguarding children could possibly have to do with his work. He saw the young people he worked with more as young adults and some of them came to his gigs and were his Facebook friends.

During the workshop there was a presentation on current safeguarding legislation. Noah learned that the term 'child' applied to anyone under the age of 18. This was something that came as a shock to him as he hadn’t really thought about it before. There was also a discussion about Facebook and the issues that it can cause. Hearing other teachers' and the workshop leader’s views he realised how important it was to have good boundaries in order to prevent an allegation of abuse or inappropriate conduct from a student. Noah decided that if he wanted to keep a good reputation and protect himself he would need to draw clearer boundaries between him and his students.

In the light of what he learned in the workshop he decided to change the privacy settings on his Facebook page and to be clearer in future with students about boundaries, which meant not inviting them to gigs. He also decided he needed to go back and ask both the charity he worked for and the school he worked in for a copy of their Child Protection/Safeguarding policies so he could be aware of all their policies around contact with the young people he worked with.

Sexual abuse – sexting

Sarah Sansome, a music workshop leader in inner city secondary schools, was working with a group of year 8 students towards a performance piece. As she was leaving she overheard a conversation between Jasmine (a pupil with learning disabilities) and Deepak about upsetting and obscene messages and images which Jasmine was getting on her phone from a group of year 10 boys. Sarah didn’t do anything at the time because she was already late for her next session but she went home thinking about the incident and wondered what to do about it.

One day Sarah saw an MU child protection workshop advertised in the MU magazine and decided it would be good to go as she had never been to a session for musicians and it was a long time since she had attended her initial training.

At the workshop she was able to discuss her concerns and realised that bullying in the form of 'sexting' was on the rise in schools and that she needed to report the incident she had witnessed, as holding on to the information could leave her in a compromised position, as well as not protecting Jasmine. Sarah also learned how children with learning disabilities and physical disabilities were much more vulnerable and more likely to be subject to abuse of all kinds.

The information she received at the MU child workshop helped Sarah to realise that child protection was everyone’s business and so she went back and found out what procedures she needed to follow in order to submit a report about the incident to both her line manager at the music service she worked for and the school’s designated child protection officer.

Inappropriate behaviour – grooming/harassment

Satnam Chayra is a peripatetic saxophone teacher and has one-to-one lessons with a 15-year-old female student called Nadia who has recently moved into the area.

One day Nadia turned up late to Satnam’s lesson carrying on a loud phone conversation with a friend as she walked into the teaching room. In the conversation Nadia gave details of sex between her and her 'new boyfriend', Phil. She then told her friend that Phil had just dropped her off at school in his new car and had given her a new iPhone. After the lesson Satnam taled to Nadia about her behaviour and the nature of the conversation being unacceptable but it seemed not to make a difference to her attitude.

The next day Satnam told his line manager, John, about what had just happened. John laughed off Satnam’s concerns and says 'she lives in a fantasy world, that girl'.

Satnam attended an MU CPAT workshop and in the workshop Satnam was able to discuss his situation over coffee with the workshop leader who was very supportive. He was advised by the workshop leader to make a note of his concerns about both the girl’s safety and the effect her inappropriate behaviour was having on his ability to do his job properly, stating clearly that he felt harassed by it. Satnam left knowing he could get support from the MU with getting his concerns taken seriously and that he wasn’t making a fuss about nothing. The MU also suggested that Satnam could ask for a support worker to attend the lessons with Nadia to make things more comfortable and to ensure that Nadia kept appropriate boundaries.

The following day Satnam had another conversation with John who passed on Satnam’s concerns to the person in the school with designated child protection responsibilities who then talked to Nadia and her social worker. They were grateful that Satnam had taken the situation seriously as Nadia’s social workers were then able to give Nadia some extra support and advice around the sexual exploitation issue.

Never too late to report a disclosure

Martin McDonald, a flute teacher at a boarding school, heard about the MU CPAT training through the MU magazine. The training is specifically for musicians who teach and so Martin decided to go along and have some training as it might be more beneficial than the more general training he had had in the past.

In the training he recalled an incident with a girl called Rhianna that happened when he was rehearsing the school band for an end of term concert. As she was packing away at the end of the night, Rhianna told him that she used to self-harm but she had stopped it now. At the time Martin remembered being a bit shocked by what Rhianna had said but he made very little comment to her and thought no more about it.

In the workshop he had time to rethink what had happened. He realised that Rhianna was making a disclosure and that the self-harm may or may not have stopped but the situation causing it may still be there.

Martin was advised to make a note of the date and time of the initial disclosure then to go back to the pupil and tell them of his duty to pass on the information to the person in school with child protection responsibilities who will need to speak with Rhianna to find out what support she might need.

Incidents around the school

Clinton Ford, a part time music teacher in an inner city Academy, attended an MU child protection workshop on the recommendation of another teacher in the school.

During the afternoon session, teachers exchanged stories about the changes in pupil conduct over recent years and some of the challenges of teaching today.

Clinton shared a story that happened to him one lunchtime. Amy, a year 11 pupil in the school, who he didn’t teach, came up to Clinton and asked him if knew what a 'blow job' was and if he did this with his wife. Clinton was flabbergasted and said, 'Amy, either you know what you are saying to me which is really bad, or you don’t understand what you are saying, which is also really bad'. He explained to the group that it seemed to him that she had been asked to do this 'as a dare' by a group of older girls who he could see standing over in a corner watching and laughing.

At the CPAT workshop Clinton got the chance to share the story and discuss what else he could have done. With hindsight he realised that it would have been good practice to share the incident with his Head of Department so they knew exactly what had happened and could approach Amy to reinforce the fact that her behaviour was not only unacceptable, but that it was also potentially risky for her to be approaching adults she didn’t know and using sexualised language. They could also deal with any potential bullying by older pupils towards Amy.

Although the incident had happened too long ago to do anything about it now, it did promote a lot of discussion about how to respond to some of the challenges that occur outside of the classroom and the importance of good communication with the Head of Department as well as keeping written notes of all potential safeguarding incidents no matter where in the school they might occur.

Inappropriate dress in lessons

Marios Doucas, a young music teacher who teaches cello from home, attended an MU safeguarding workshop after doing the MU NSPCC online course. The course made him realise that there was much more to safeguarding than he originally thought.

During the afternoon session, there was an exercise on the do’s and don’ts of good practice of music teaching in the classroom and safeguarding children. He realised that one of the issues he had with teaching at his home was around how students dress. There was one particular pupil, 13 year old Irina, who regularly turned up wearing a short skirt for lessons.

Marios explained that, although it was making him feel uncomfortable, he didn’t want to draw attention to it by talking about it with her. Discussing it at the workshop, he realised that he wasn’t the only teacher who had been unsure about what to do in this type of situation. The discussion made him realise that from this point forward he needed to have a clear written agreement with all new parents before the lessons began about the right equipment and dress for pupils attending the lessons.

As a result of sharing and discussing his issue with other teachers and the workshop leader he felt much more confident about what to do.

He resolved to talk with Irina’s parents about the dress issue as part of his weekly report back to them. He decided to phrase it in terms of Irina’s ease of movement and comfort when playing the instrument.

Risk assessing the teaching situation and forward planning

Paul Ennis, a piano teacher with considerable experience and based at home, attended a recent MU Child Protection workshop to update his skills. 

During the course of the workshop he discussed a number of challenges around safeguarding and teaching from home, which have affected him over the years.

Most recently, Paul had been teaching a 5 year old student, Ruby. Her mum, Jane, had stayed for the first lesson. On the second lesson, seeing that Ruby was enjoying the lesson, Jane decided to pop to the local shop.

A moment or two after Jane left Ruby wet herself. Paul was at a loss as to what to do. He had forgotten to get Jane’s mobile number as the original plan was that Jane would sit in with Ruby.

Paul had never had to deal with a situation like this before. Luckily his wife was at home and asked Ruby if it would be OK to clean her up and find her some dry things to put on until her mum came back.

The incident that Paul shared made the teachers at the workshop really think about the importance of doing a thorough risk assessment of the home environment for teaching.

Paul realised that he needed to make his arrangements for contacting parents clear and also the need for insisting parents of young children sit in the car outside the lesson in future in case they were needed. That would avoid Paul or his wife and Ruby being put in a potentially compromising position.

MU Code of Practice for music practitioners

The Code

Music practitioners and teachers should…

  • be well prepared and organised
  • work effectively and possess the appropriate specialist knowledge and skills
  • negotiate with contractors and employers the aims, objectives and desired outcomes for the work and maintain communication for the duration of the project
  • understand the context of a programme or project and plan effectively to ensure the success of the activity for the participants
  • adopt appropriate attitude, behaviour and dress code
  • manage their time effectively, starting and finishing as planned and agreed
  • be aware of the support needed and request help when necessary
  • keep up with relevant paperwork such as course planning documents, handouts, evaluation forms, invoices and budgets
  • charge appropriately for services

Be safe and responsible

  • Take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of everyone attending sessions, especially children and vulnerable adults
  • Ensure that the activity is adequately insured
  • Ensure that Risk Assessments are carried out and manage any risks accordingly
  • Understand the contractor's policies, routines and procedures e.g. child protection, equal opportunities, behaviour management, data protection
  • Provide references for work and a CRB disclosure where necessary

Have appropriate musical skills

  • Ensure that your level of skills, knowledge and understanding is sufficient to undertake the work
  • Demonstrate musical expertise, creativity and versatility
  • Adapt and react to changing circumstances by drawing on appropriate musical resources

Work well with people

  • Value all participants and treat them with respect
  • Be sensitive and responsive to both group and individual dynamics
  • Motivate and inspire participants
  • Lead high-quality and enjoyable music experiences
  • Always be friendly, approachable and professional

Evaluate and reflect on your work

  • Collect monitoring data for your contractors and employers as and when required
  • Collect feedback from contractors, employers and participants
  • Reflect on work and continually strive to improve your practice

Commit to professional development

  • Improve and update your skills, knowledge and creativity via regular training, personal reflection and membership of professional bodies
  • Maintain a professional portfolio and CV

Musicians' Union services and partnerships


The Musicians' Union is fully committed to ensuring that the health, safety and welfare of its members are maintained.

The Union provides members with a range of services designed to achieve this, in partnership with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine and Musicians' Hearing Service.

British Association for Performing Arts Medicine

The Musicians' Union aims to ensure that performers receive expert medical assessments and advice. Working in partnership with the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM), the Union provides members with access to health care expressly designed for performing artists. The nationwide services available through BAPAM include access to free confidential clinics, providing in-depth medical assessments by specialist practitioners and a dedicated helpline that supplies advice and information on medical issues for performing artists.

In addition to its central London provision, BAPAM now has clinics in Bath, Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Dublin, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle/Gateshead, Manchester and Portsmouth.

  • For an appointment, please phone 0845 602 0235 (landlines), 020 7404 8444 (mobiles) or 004420 7404 8444 (from Republic of Ireland) between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • For more information, a list of complementary and mainstream practitioners, and guidance on staying fit and healthy, please visit

Musicians' Hearing Services

Musicians' Hearing Services (MHS) operates the MU's Hearing Passport scheme, the Basic Hearing Test Scheme and also offers a nationwide service to freelance MU members. MHS specialises in the specific needs of musicians and the entertainment industry, offering hearing health surveillance to freelance musicians. It provides noise level measurements, on-site if required, and can advise on appropriate custom-made ear plugs, designed specifically for those operating in the music industry. MU members are entitled to access these schemes and obtain custom-made ear plugs at discounted prices.

Musicians' Hearing Passport scheme

Taking account of the freelance status of many MU members, the Union has developed the Musicians' Hearing Passport scheme, in partnership with BAPAM and MHS, which offers hearing health surveillance for freelance MU members at a reduced cost of £40.

The Musicians' Hearing Passport scheme includes:

  • An in-depth examination by qualified audiologists with a full written results report
  • A written report for health professionals/employers (upon request)
  • Advice on hearing protection and conservation (including noise levels and the management of tinnitus)
  • A discount on custom-made, noise-attenuating earplugs
  • Regular check-up call-backs

Once all of the procedures are carried out, you will be issued with your own Musicians’ Hearing Passport, a wallet-sized card featuring your name, date of enrolment and the official MHS stamp. This card will show that you have received all of the necessary training, advice and information required under the CNWR’s Hearing Health Surveillance requirements.

To register, find out more about the services MHS provides or to make an appointment, MU members can contact Musicians' Hearing Services on 020 7486 1053 or email info [@]

MU Safety Representatives

The MU has a network of Safety Representatives who are concerned with ensuring the health and safety of musicians in the workplace. However, the Union recognises that its freelance members can be unable to raise these issues in the workplace. To resolve this difficulty, the MU has set up a team of roving Safety Reps who are available to assist members when such problems occur.

Health & Safety courses

The MU also runs in-house Health & Safety courses, all of which place a particular emphasis on the entertainment industry. They are designed to assist new and experienced Safety Representatives alike.

These courses are very informal — there are no exams and very little written work is involved. It is important for all Safety Representatives to attend one of these courses in order to gain confidence in and full knowledge of musicians' rights and how to apply them in the workplace.

(To find out when the next Safety Reps' course is being held, Musicians' Union members should contact their Regional Office.)

Alcohol and drugs - substance misuse


Studies have shown that the use of illegal drugs is on the increase, that the consumption of alcohol among women is rising and that men are drinking at the same high levels they have for the past few years. All of these situations are arising despite numerous national initiatives to reduce alcohol consumption.

There are almost as many health problems caused by alcohol as there are associated with drug use. The main difference is that alcohol is legal and freely available and the vast majority of the population takes advantage of its availability.


Alcohol depresses certain brain functions - those affecting judgement, self control and co-ordination - and so has an impact upon a person's ability to drive or operate machinery.

The liver can only burn up one unit of alcohol per hour. If it has to deal with too much alcohol over a number of years, it suffers damage, becoming inflamed (hepatitis) or permanently scarred (cirrhosis).

Alcohol misuse can also lead to a number of other physical and mental problems including stomach disorders, depression, high blood pressure and even cancer.


Dependence on drugs - whether they are illegal, prescribed or over-the-counter - does not always cause difficulties for the user, although regular abuse can lead to other problems such as health, relationship and financial issues.

The Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 makes extensive provision for the control of certain drugs in order to prevent their misuse and deal with the connected social problems.

Alcohol & drugs and the law


In addition to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, other pieces of legislation make direct reference to alcohol and/or drugs such as the Transport and Works Act 1992, the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974. It is possible that, in certain circumstances, charges may be brought against the employer or an employee under either or both the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 or the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.

It would be up to the courts to decide on the circumstances of each case. Employers have a duty of care to their employees under both employment and health and safety law. Investing in employees' health and welfare helps to ensure an effective and efficient workforce.

Issues surrounding substance misuse

  • Substance misusers can be a hazard to themselves and others
  • The lifestyle imposed by a person's job may increase the risk of alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stress may be a contributory factor
  • If the problem is ignored, the person’s job will eventually be at risk

The benefits of a workplace policy

Many of the issues involved are common to both drug and alcohol misuse and a workplace policy can combine the two. It must be noted that the consumption of alcohol is legal in our society but the use of certain drugs is illegal. Health education should be at the core of workplace policy which should enable employees and employers to:

  • Recognise alcohol and drug misuse as a health problem
  • Prevent drug/alcohol misuse through awareness programmes
  • Identify employees/employers with a problem at an early stage
  • Provide assistance to employees/employers with drug and/or alcohol-related problems

Possible signs of alcohol and drug misuse

Reduced work performance characteristics

  • Confusion
  • Lack of judgement
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty in concentrating on work
  • Periods of high and low productivity

Absenteeism and time-keeping

  • Poor time-keeping
  • Increased absence
  • Peculiar and improbable excuses

Personality changes

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Irritability and aggression
  • Over-reaction to criticism
  • Friction with colleagues

Physical signs

  • Smelling of alcohol
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Lack of hygiene

Feeding addiction

  • Attempting to borrow money
  • Dishonesty

Help and information


  • Information about dealing with drugs and alcohol in the workplace, guidance on developing a workplace policy and a database of services in England and Wales
  • Call 020 7928 1211 or visit

National Drugs Helpline

  • A free, confidential, 24-hour service: 0800 776600

Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Head office: 0904 644026
  • London: 020 7352 3001
  • Wales: 0222 373939
  • Northern Ireland: 0232 681084
  • Scotland: 0141 221 9027

Alcohol Concern

  • London: 020 7928 7377
  • Wales: 029 2022 6746

Al Anon family groups

  • For the family and friends of problem drinkers: 020 7403 0888

The Equality Act


Since 1996, the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 (DDA) has required employers not to discriminate against employees or job applicants with disabilities and to make 'reasonable adjustments' to allow them to carry on working or take up new posts. The EA 2010 came into force in October of that year. It replaced most of the DDA. However, the Disability Equality Duty in the DDA continues to apply. Like the DDA 2005, the Equality Act 2010 (EA) covers forms of disability that are not ‘clinically well recognised’, including cancer, HIV and more forms of mental  impairment.

Employers must now take account of conditions ranging from stress-related illness to less well-known mental health conditions (such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and extreme phobia) plus more commonly recognised illnesses including bipolar disorder and such psychoses as schizophrenia. Employees' or applicants' mental impairments need to be long-term, lasting or likely to last more than 12 months and must affect the individual's ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

(This information has been prepared to assist MU Safety Reps when dealing with specific illnesses in the workplace covered under the EA as it applies to the DDA.)

The Equality Act in practice

The EA defines a disabled person as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, although there are some special rules that cover recurring or fluctuating conditions.

Anyone who is certified blind or partially sighted; suffering from cancer; HIV infection or multiple sclerosis does not have to show that they have an impairment that has or is likely to result in a substantial adverse, long-term effect on the ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. A disability can arise from a wide range of impairments, such as:

  • Sensory impairments e.g. those affecting sight or hearing
  • Impairments with fluctuating or recurring effects such as rheumatoid arthritis, myalgic encephalitis (ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, depression and epilepsy
  • Organ specific impairments including such respiratory conditions as asthma through to cardiovascular diseases including thrombosis, stroke and heart conditions
  • Mental health conditions and mental illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, bipolar affective disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders plus personality disorders and some self-harming behaviour

The EA also recognises that environmental conditions may exacerbate the effect of impairment. Such factors as the temperature, humidity, lighting, the time of day or night, how tired a person is or how much stress he/she is under could have an impact.

Useful resources

MIND (National Association for Mental Health):
Department for Work and Pensions (DWP):
TUC Know Your Rights Line: 08700 600 4882
ACAS Helpline: 08457 474747
Equality and Human Rights Commission:
Employers' Forum on Disability:

Over/misuse injuries (RSI)

About RSI

The term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is not, in itself, a medical diagnosis. The term RSI is used to incorrectly describe a number of named musculoskeletal conditions including tenosynovitis, cramp of the hand and tendonitis. In addition, the term 'diffuse RSI' is also in common usage but is more difficult to define.

Whether described as RSI or 'diffuse RSI', these conditions and injuries may be occupational in origin. Therefore, Repetitive Strain Injury is a term similar to that of 'sports injury' in that it tells more about how the injury was sustained than describes what it actually is. RSI conditions occur in upper or lower limbs and affect various areas of the spine which, in turn, can cause referred pain in the limbs, making diagnosis difficult. Symptoms of numbness, tingling, sharp pain, dull ache, weakness, loss of grip and restricted movement of limbs can render people incapable of carrying out the simplest of tasks, whether at home or in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, the lack of accurate diagnosis and access to appropriate treatment often further exacerbates the condition.

Risk factors

  • Repetition: The use of fast, frequent movements for prolonged periods. Repetition for prolonged periods may not allow sufficient time for recovery and can cause muscle fatigue, owing to the depletion of energy and a build-up of metabolic waste. The repeated loading of joints and soft tissues may be associated with inflammation.
  • Working posture: Poor postures can increase the risk of injury when they are awkward and/or held for prolonged periods in a static or fixed position.
  • Awkward postures: These occur when a body part is used well beyond its neutral position (for example, where the wrist is held in a reasonably straight position). When awkward postures are adopted, additional muscular effort is needed to maintain body positions as muscles are less efficient at the extremes of the joint range. The resulting friction and compression of soft tissues structures can also lead to injury.
  • Static postures: These occur when a part of the body is held in a particular position for extended periods without the soft tissues being allowed to relax. For example, when holding an instrument it is likely that the hands and arms are in a static posture. Muscles held in static postures quickly develop fatigue.
  • Duration of exposure: The length of time that any task is performed for. It is presumed that the majority of musculoskeletal disorders are cumulative in nature and that the risk of injury increases with lengthier exposure times. This is because when parts of the body undertake work for periods without rest, there may be insufficient time for recovery. Planning work-rest cycles is important for all musicians.


The first stage is knowing when and where you are in danger

  • Each instrument has its own risk set; be sure you know yours
  • Establish a set of proper performance habits
  • Maintain correct posture
  • Examine and adjust your technique
  • Develop warm-up and stretching routines in order to increase your muscle stamina

Health maintenance: You can go a long way towards preventing injury by taking a proactive role in your health. Even the safest musicians will feel the strain of a busy schedule clawing them into a state of near exhaustion and may try medications that are largely ineffective and may be unsafe. A balanced diet will improve your body's natural ability to generate energy and function at peak performance levels. By making a few changes in your diet, you can safeguard against injury and fatigue.

Coping with stress at work


There is no specific piece of law that deals with stress at work. However, this does not mean that employers need not act in circumstances where it is clear that employees are being subject to excessive stress and its ill effects. In many ways, stress is viewed as a Health & Safety issue.

The law and standards

All workers have the right to expect a healthy and safe working environment and it is the employer's duty in law to provide such. If an employee is being put under excess pressure and suffering stress as a result, it may be that Health & Safety law can be used to challenge the employer. This is covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Similarly, workers have the right not to be bullied or treated in a manner which can be defined as discriminated against at work. Someone who feels they are being bullied or discriminated against at work is likely to feel stressed as a result of such treatment. If this is the case, an employer’s failure to prevent and deal with discrimination is covered under the Sex Discrimination, Race Relations and Disability Discrimination Acts.

HSE guidance on workplace stress

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has issued guidance on preventing workplace stress:

'Ill health resulting from stress caused at work has to be treated the same as ill health due to other physical causes present in the workplace. This means that employers do have a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that health is not placed at risk through excessive and sustained levels of stress arising from the way work is organised, the way people deal with each other at their work or from the day-to-day demands placed on their workforce.'

Union Safety Representatives can use their extensive rights, under the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations (SRSCR) 1977, to investigate and take up problems of work-related stress in the same way they investigate any other workplace hazard. Under these Regulations, Union Safety Representatives are also entitled to be consulted on health and safety matters and the introduction of changes to the workplace which may have an impact on their members' health, safety and welfare.

Stress and Risk Assessment

Creating safe systems of work and preventing accidents and ill health are the cornerstones of Health & Safety law in the UK. It is the employer's legal duty to ensure that employees are not subject to conditions at work which have a detrimental impact on their health and well-being. This includes work-related stress. The requirement to carry out a Risk Assessment and repeat the process in the event of any workplace changes has been in force since 1993.

Useful tips for coping with stress

  • Working off stress with physical activity enables you to vent pent-up feelings
  • Discuss your problem with others as confiding in another person gives some relief and puts the problem in perspective
  • Learn to accept what you are unable to change
  • Do not drown your sorrows with alcohol or other drugs
  • Make sure that you always get enough rest/sleep — do not let the rest of your work/home life suffer
  • Ensure that you allow yourself leisure activities
  • Do something positive for someone else. This is an effective method of taking your thoughts off yourself and your problems
  • Do not overwhelm yourself. Establish your priorities and take one step at a time
  • Try to agree with someone. Get away from battles and hostility
  • Manage your time more effectively by working out a system
  • Plan ahead when you know that a stressful time is approaching
  • If you are sick, seek appropriate attention and make sure that you rest until you really are better
  • Develop new interests. It is healthy to have a different focus for your attention
  • Believe that the answer lies in yourself
  • Eat sensibly and exercise to promote good health
  • Accept when you are tired and, at that point, stop work
  • Do not put off relaxing, make it a priority
  • Do not take too much on. Never be afraid to say no
  • Delegate responsibility. Do not be afraid to ask for help
  • Be realistic about perfection

Tackling bullying in the workplace

There is no specific legislation covering this particular issue so no legal definition exists as to exactly what types of behaviour can be constituted as bullying. However, the accepted definition, as adopted by the TUC, is: 'persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.' Despite the absence of specific legislation, there are laws which may be applicable depending on the circumstances of the individual making a complaint:

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 Section 2(1)

This places a responsibility upon every employer to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all their employees.

Section 3 of the Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1992

Every employer has a legal responsibility to make a suitable sufficient assessment of the risk to the health, safety and welfare of employees in order that preventative and protective measures can be taken.

Safety Representatives

In Regulation 4A of the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977, employers have a legal duty to consult with Union Safety Representatives concerning Health & Safety matters.

Employment Law

Duty to prevent unlawful discrimination. This covers bullying, which may be defined as discrimination where it is based on gender, race or disability.

Constructive dismissal

Employers have a general duty of care under civil law. If bullying leads to a fundamental breach of the employment contract, an employee may be able to pursue a claim of constructive dismissal under the Employment Rights Act 1996, provided that they have worked with the same employer for at least one year.

Workplace policy on bullying

This should include:

  • A statement that bullying will not be tolerated and will be treated as a disciplinary offence
  • A commitment that complaints of bullying will be taken seriously and dealt with quickly
  • All elements of the procedure to be conducted in confidence
  • A timetabled complaints procedure
  • Provision of confidential counselling for both the bullied and the bully
  • The policy should include regular monitoring to assess whether it is actually achieving its intended aims  and objectives. Training for management and Health & Safety Representatives

More information can be found at

Heat and light

Thermal comfort and ventilation in the workplace


All workplaces are covered by the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act), which sets out the general duties that an employer has towards employees and members of the public and those responsibilities which employees have to themselves and to each other. Although the HSW Act does not mention temperature specifically, employers should ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of employees. This includes providing a working environment that is both safe and without risk to health under Regulation 7 of the HSW Act.


The Approved Code of Practice states that 'all reasonable steps should be taken to achieve a comfortable temperature'. It also states that thermometers should be provided by the employer in each workplace/room. If the temperature in a workplace is uncomfortable, insist that it is measured.

The temperature in workrooms should normally be at least 16˚C (60˚F), unless much of the work involves severe physical effort, in which case it should be at least 13˚C (55˚F). However, these temperatures may not ensure reasonable comfort, depending on other such factors as air movement and relative humidity.

Where a reasonably comfortable temperature cannot be achieved throughout a workplace, local heating or cooling (as appropriate) should be provided. In extremely hot weather, fans and increased ventilation may be used for this purpose, instead of local cooling.

In parts of the workplace other than where work is carried out, such as sanitary facilities or rest facilities, the temperature should be reasonable in all circumstances. Changing rooms and shower rooms should not be cold.

Thermal Comfort Check-list

  1. Identify the problem by talking to your members or work colleagues and carriying out a survey
  2. Look at the temperatures and heating or cooling systems
  3. Draw up a list of the main problems
  4. Prepare a report for management or representatives of the venue suggesting remedial action. In some places the positioning of modern electrical and computer equipment that runs hot may be something to bear in mind, as well as the use of lighting that generates high levels of heat


Working in unsatisfactory thermal conditions without adequate supplies of fresh air can pose problems. Regulation 6 decrees enclosed workplaces should be sufficiently well ventilated so that stale air is replaced at a reasonable rate. Air which is taken from the outside can normally be considered as 'fresh' and, in many cases, windows or other openings will provide sufficient ventilation in some or all parts of the workplace. Workers should not be subject to uncomfortable draughts. Mechanical ventilation systems (including air-conditioning) should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air. Special care and attention should be taken where there is an exposure to any chemical hazards — for instance, dry ice, oil mist, glycol or mineral oil smoke or pyrotechnic smoke effects.

For more details, visit the HSE website at

Lighting levels in the workplace

The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act) obliges employers to provide adequate lighting in the workplace, to ensure that work can be done safely and employees' health or eyesight is not jeopardised. These provisions are contained in the Management of Health Safety at Work Regulations including Regulation 8 which states that the employer must ensure that:

  • Every workplace has suitable and sufficient lighting
  • This should be natural light, so far as is reasonably practicable
  • Suitable and sufficient emergency lighting shall be provided where needed

No detailed legal standards for illumination exist. Therefore, the Illuminating Engineering Society’s (IES) recommendations are generally adopted. The amount of light required depends on the type of work that is being undertaken.

The typical lighting problems that could be experienced include:

  • Dark, shadowy or unlit areas
  • A lack of natural light
  • Glare from badly positioned lights, windows or reflecting surfaces
  • Eyestrain or fatigue from bad posture caused by poor lighting
  • Dirty or poorly maintained lighting
  • Unsuitable decor, leading to lower light levels, excessive contrasts or too much glare
  • Unsuitable coloured light effects

For further details and guidance, please refer to the Regulations quoted in this section or call the HSE information line on 0845 345 0055

Electrical safety

Electrical safety of portable electrical equipment & Portable Appliance Test (PAT)

The particular legal requirements relating to the use and maintenance of electrical equipment are contained in the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989 (EWR). These apply to all work activities and place requirements on employers, self-employed and employees (duty holders). The EWR are enforced either by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) or by Local Authority environmental health officers, depending on what usually goes on at the premises. Almost all places of entertainment need a licence from the Local Authority. There will usually be requirements for fire precautions and these can also include conditions relating to electrical safety.

The EWR require that certain safety objectives be achieved and do not prescribe the measures to be taken. This allows the duty holder to select precautions appropriate to the risk, rather than having those imposed which may not be relevant to a particular work activity. Everybody working with or on electrical equipment (even if they are self-employed) comes within the scope of the EWR. Please note that the testing of electrical equipment should always be carried out by a 'competent person'.

Portable or fixed equipment

The term 'portable' appliance is not defined in the EWR but may be regarded as covering equipment designed to be carried from place to place and connected to a fixed power supply by a flexible lead and plug - for example, an amplifier.

The reason for distinguishing between portable and fixed equipment is that the electrical connections to portable equipment - for example, the mains plug, flexible cable and terminals - are likely to be subject to more wear and tear than those on the equipment which forms part of the fixed installation.

Inspection and Portable Appliance Testing (PAT)

Maintenance is a general term which, in practice, can include visual inspection, testing, repair and replacement. Maintenance will determine whether (a) the equipment is fully serviceable or (b) remedial action is necessary. There are no absolute rules regarding the frequency of PAT testing.

The Health & Safety Executive's guidance notes advise 'regular testing' and this is generally interpreted to mean annual testing by a 'competent person'. However, conditions of use will vary and more frequent testing may be necessary. This will depend on the type of use, the nature of the working environment and how much wear and tear the equipment receives. If there are any signs of damage or poor electrical standards, the equipment should not be used until it is made safe.

Any MU member who does not feel that he or she is competent to carry out a Portable Appliance Test (PAT) should enlist the services of a competent electrician. To prove you have complied with the EWR, keep full and accurate records of test results and equipment details.

If a number of pieces of equipment or extension leads are involved, then a register of all equipment should be created to include the following details:

  • identification number
  • description of appliance
  • serial number
  • period between tests

Any certification of equipment should show the tests undertaken and the results obtained. For further guidance, visit the HSE website at

Fire safety


Changes to Fire Safety were introduced in October 2006. The following aims to give a basic understanding of Fire Safety and Fire Risk Assessments under current law and help when dealing with Fire Safety in the workplace.

Health & Safety Representatives can make valuable contributions to the Fire Risk Assessment process by helping employers to identify key issues and making practical suggestions for improvements.

(For Musicians' Union members, MU Health & Safety Representatives should ensure that employers and workplaces are compliant under the Fire Safety Order and that Fire Risk Assessments have been carried out. Members should always make sure they are given information about fire evacuation and check that signage makes it clear how to get out of a building in an emergency.)

The law and responsibility

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, known as the FSO (Fire Safety Order), has now replaced the Fire Safety provisions contained in numerous sets of regulations. Building occupiers or responsible person(s) must now carry out a Risk Assessment on the Fire Safety of the premises, a task previously carried out by the Fire Service, who would then issue a Fire Certificate.

Guidance documents

There are separate sets of guidance documents available, covering a number of different types of premises including offices and shops, sleeping accommodation, theatres and cinemas. These guidance documents give details of how to comply with the new legislation. Each guidance document comprises a general guide plus any requirements specific to the sector in question. These guidance documents can be downloaded from

Five steps to Fire Risk Assessment

1. Hazards

Identify potential fire hazards in the workplace.

2. Identify those at risk

Decide who (employees, visitors, etc) might be in danger in the event of a fire in the workplace or while trying to escape from it and be sure to note their location.

3. Evaluate, remove, reduce, protect from risk

Evaluate the risks arising from the hazards and decide whether your existing fire precautions are adequate or if more should be done to get rid of the hazard or to control the risks (for example, by improving the fire precautions).

4. Record, plan, inform, instruct and train

Record your findings and the details of the action you took as a result. Then inform your employees of the findings.

5. Review

Keep the assessment under review and revise it when necessary.

Risk assessment


A Risk Assessment looks at the risks to the health and safety of employee(s) in the workplace. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, Regulation 3 (MHSWR), requires all employers to carry out comprehensive Risk Assessments, to include workplaces and facilities. It is important that all aspects of the working environment are taken into account when Risk Assessments are carried out as many risks and hazards interact.

Where employees of several employers share the same workplace, Regulation 9 and the Code Of Practice says that they may have to co-operate to produce an overall assessment for the workplace. Self-employed workers have a duty to assess the risks to their own health and safety that they are exposed to while at work. Risk Assessments are the responsibility of the employer and should be carried out by a competent person where five or more people are employed and recorded in writing.

A Risk Assessment must be reviewed regularly, usually annually or when there is a significant change in the work or work environment or in the light of subsequent experience. There are no fixed rules about how Risk Assessments should be undertaken.

Steps to Risk Assessment

  1. Look for hazards
  2. Decide who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risk arising from the hazard(s) and decide whether existing precautions are adequate or more should be done. If you find that something needs to be done, be sure to ask:
    Can I eliminate the hazard altogether?
    If not, how can I control the risk so that harm is unlikely?
  4. Record your findings in a thorough but easy to understand way
  5. Review your assessment from time to time and revise if necessary

Health surveillance

Risk Assessments will identify circumstances where health surveillance will be appropriate. Generally, there will be a need for health surveillance if there is an identifiable health condition related to the work undertaken and the surveillance will further protect the health of employees. Examples where these conditions may apply include occupational deafness, forms of work-related upper limb disorders and a number of back injuries.

Details of Risk Assessment

The subjects of Risk Assessments include such basic information as job title, work area, working environment and emergency procedures plus non-routine jobs and tasks.

  • Description of subject
  • Frequency of task
  • Hazards:
    1. Actual
    2. Potential
  • Consequences of the risk (minor, medium, severe)
  • Workers particularly at risk
  • Other persons who are affected (public, contractors)
  • The legal standards that apply
  • Emergency procedures
  • Training
  • Monitoring:
    1. Control measures
    2. Health surveillance
  • Recommended improvements (corrective action)
  • A review date
  • Signature of competent person

Hearing issues

Noise exposure in classrooms

The size of the teaching room is important as it is likely that working in a small room will result in exposure to higher sound levels than when teaching in a larger auditorium. It is therefore advisable to raise awareness amongst students regarding the dangers of over-exposure to excessive sound levels and the need to wear hearing protection.

Loud sounds, whatever their source, can damage hearing. Hearing damage is permanent, irreversible and causes deafness. The Sound Advice Guidance Document ( is a practical guide that details how to protect the hearing of teachers and students during music lessons.

The MU also recommends members to keep a record of daily/weekly noise exposure. A noise calculator can be downloaded from the website of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

The following information sets out practical advice for music professionals on how to protect hearing and the legal status with regard to claims for deafness.

Your hearing — advice for musicians

The Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNWR) and a specially-written guidance document entitled Sound Advice came into force across the music and entertainment sectors in April 2008. Local Authority enforcement officers will now ensure that all premises comply with the CNWR and have powers to serve a Health & Safety Improvement Notice if employers/ premises are found to be in breach of the regulations.

Enforcement officers may prosecute if they determine that the situation is serious enough. The new regulations feature a set of Decibel (dB) Action Values which require employers and premises to take steps to protect the hearing of workers, including the provision of suitable protection equipment, maintenance of same and training as to its proper use. Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An 'A weighting', which is sometimes written as 'dB(A)',  is used to measure average noise levels. A 'C weighting', or 'dB(C)', is used to measure peak, impact or explosive noises.

The CNWR includes a set of 'action values' which dictate the level of protection that must be supplied or used at different dB exposure levels:

  • First Action Values require that  suitable hearing protection must be made available for workers when there’s a daily or weekly exposure above 80dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 135dB(C)
  • Second Action Values require that  suitable hearing protection must be used when the daily or weekly exposure exceeds 85dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 137dB(C)
  • Exposure Limit Values, which must not be exceeded, are a daily or weekly level of 87dB(A) or a peak sound pressure of 140dB(C). These limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection

Please note that the typical dB(A) levels reached by a rock band can be up to 125dB(A) and, for a symphony orchestra, 94dB(A).

For further information, please see Note 9 of the Sound Advice guidance document which is available online at

If a noise hazard exists in the workplace, the CNWR requires the employer to carry out a noise assessment which involves measuring noise levels with specialist equipment, assessing the exposure and developing an action plan and ongoing monitoring. For further information, refer to Note 5 of the Sound Advice guidance document, available from

Causes of deafness

Hearing loss can be caused by many things including the natural ageing process, hereditary causes, health problems, head injuries and ear infections. Some drugs for illnesses can have the side effect of causing deafness. Noise-induced hearing loss has distinguishing characteristic features which are detectable on an audiogram after a hearing test. There is a range of hearing which is described by doctors as 'within normal limits'. The fact that you may have worked in noise does not necessarily mean that you have any hearing problems or that those problems have been caused by work.

Excessive noise

If you have worked in loud noise, you may not have worked in excessive noise so as to break the rules laid down by law. In order to break the rules laid down by law, you would have to prove that your noise exposure exceeded 90dB when averaged over eight hours. Some people can still suffer hearing damage even when their exposure is within the legal limits. As a rough guide, if people next to you have to shout for you to understand them, then there may be a hazard.

Date of Guilty Knowledge

This legal term describes the date by which an employer must have realised that noise could cause damage to the hearing of its staff. It is only from this date that the courts will say that an employer is guilty. The courts have decided that the date of guilty knowledge for most major employers is 1963, although some may have earlier or later dates.

Any damage done to your hearing by employment prior to the guilty knowledge date cannot receive compensation and in any successful case a reduction may have to be made to allow for this earlier exposure.

(Musicians' Union members who wish to pursue a deafness claim should contact their regional office.)

This section was reproduced with the kind permission of Thompsons Solicitors.

The law and standards


The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 places overall responsibility for health and safety with the employer.

The employer will vary according to the type of school:

  • Community schools, maintained schools, community special schools, voluntary-controlled schools, maintained Nursery schools and pupil referral units: for these schools, the employer is the Local Authority (LA)
  • Foundation schools, foundation special schools and voluntary-aided schools: for these, the employer is usually the governing body or the proprietor
  • Independent schools: for these, the employer is usually the governing body or the proprietor

Education employers have duties to ensure — so far as is reasonably practicable — the health, safety and welfare of teachers and their other education staff

Requirements and responsibilities


The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) enforces health and safety law relating to the activities of Local Authorities and schools.

Responsibilities — ALL schools

The employer must have a Health & Safety policy and the arrangements to implement it.

Risk Assessment

Health & Safety risk assessments must be undertaken for all activities and measures introduced to manage those risks (The Management Of Health & Safety At Work Regulations 1999).

Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

These regulations, applicable to schools, require employers to ensure that the workplace and any equipment is maintained and in working order. It includes such areas as ventilation, working temperatures/thermal comfort, lighting, room dimensions and work-space and seating.

Control Of Noise At Work Regulations 2005

This requires employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. For more information, please visit the Schools & Colleges section of


While on the school's premises, teachers should ensure that they are aware of its policies and procedures including:

  • The evacuation procedure in the event of a fire, bomb scares or any other such major incidents
  • First aid provision
  • Accident reporting
  • Health and safety issues and the procedures for raising an issue

Case study


Jane teaches flute at the local Secondary school on a contract she received through the local Hub. She has been teaching after school on a Tuesday for two terms in the same room without a problem. However, last Tuesday, the room was double-booked so she was moved to the 'drama hut' on the other side of the playground.

There was only one light in the room which was very dim and there didn’t seem to be any heating. She reluctantly continued with the lesson but that evening she emailed her manager about the situation and asked him if there was anything she could do.

The next day, her manager called Jane to say he had contacted the school to explain that it was not acceptable for teachers to work under those conditions; the school apologised and assured her manager that in future, they would ensure that all visiting music teachers were given a suitable teaching room to teach in.

Jane also went on a Health and Safety training day organised by the Musicians’ Union so she knew what her obligations were as well as those of the school and her employer.

A music teacher, whether employed by a school, Music Service or a Hub or as a self-employed person, must take responsibility for their own health and safety while on the school's premises and they must ensure that they comply with the school's Health & Safety procedures while they are on-site. However, this does not negate the school or employer's responsibility to them under the Health & Safety at Work Act.

Additional information


  • What contract is best for the teacher?
  • New Rules as of April 2012: Class 1 National Insurance
  • Changes to Workplace pensions law

What contract is best for the teacher?

This will depend on their circumstance and objectives. Self-employed contracts provide flexibility and may have tax advantages. Employment contracts provide important statutory rights and there will be an implied term of mutual trust and confidence.

New Rules as of April 2012: Class 1 National Insurance

The social security regulations in relation to tutors/lecturers in institutions have changed in respect to those that teach traditional curriculum subjects with effect from 6 April 2012 (i.e. from the current tax year 2012/13 onwards).

Prior to this date, if an individual acted as a tutor teaching music in an educational institution, then the social security regulations from 1978 stated that Class 1 National Insurance Contributions (NIC) were due if the individual in question was engaged to lecture for three days or more in any three consecutive months, regardless of their employment/self-employment status. 

These regulations have now been repealed and each case is to be considered on its own facts to determine whether an individual may be classed as self-employed, regardless of the number of days they are engaged in any period.

Individuals will need to consider their circumstances before being confident that they are self-employed and the usual factors (as previously mentioned) will need to be considered to determine the status.

More information

Changes to Workplace pensions law

Workplace pensions law has changed. Every employer now has new legal duties to help their workers in the UK save for retirement.

More information

Legal rights


This is a short guide to your legal rights depending on your employment status.


An employee has the legal right to:

  • a Written Statement – this must be provided within two months of beginning the employment
  • Maternity/Parternal Leave and Pay, Adoption Leave and Pay and Paternity Leave and Pay, Antenatal care
  • time off to care for dependants
  • request time off to undertake study or training is introduced for employees working in companies who have an average of 250+ employees  
  • protection against unfair dismissal
  • a fair disciplinary and dismissal policy
  • grievance procedure at work
  • Statutory Redundancy Pay
  • time off for public duties e.g. magistrate duties; for Trade Union activities
  • a Stakeholder pension (if the employer has more than 5 employees)
  • an itemised pay statement

plus those rights that a Worker has below

As of 1 October 2011, Agency workers in Great Britain have the right to 'equal treatment' in certain areas of their employment. It will give certain 'Agency workers' rights to equal treatment for  pay, working hours, night work, rest breaks, paid holidays; paid time off for ante-natal appointments; the right to apply for internal vacancies and access internal facilities; and give them limited unfair dismissal rights in relation to the Regulations.

NB: Often employers will give benefits/terms to employees that are more generous than the legal minimum entitlements.


A worker is entitled to core employment rights including the right to:

  • receive the National Minimum Wage
  • protection against unlawful deduction from wages
  • a minimum period of paid holiday (annual leave) under the Working Time Directive
  • minimum length of rest breaks under the Working Time Directive
  • not work more than 48 hours on average per week or to opt out of this right if you choose
  • protection against unlawful discrimination (including less favourable treatment on the grounds of part-time status)
  • protection for 'whistleblowing' (reporting wrongdoing in the workplace)
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity or Adoption Pay (NB - not leave)
  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • not be discriminated against unlawfully on grounds or race, sex, marriage/civil partnerships, maternity/pregnancy, disability, gender reassingment, sexual orientation, age, religion or belief and to receive equal pay (with members of the opposite sex if you can show they are doing similar work of equal value)
  • protection against discrimination for membership or non-membership of a Trade Union

Self-employed (freelancer)

They will not be entitled to:

  • company’s sick leave, company maternity pay or company pension provisions
  • the legal right to protection under internal disciplinary and grievance schemes
  • the legal right not be dismissed (however, the contract of service should contain clauses relating to termination of the agreement and time-periods)
  • statutory rights such as unfair dismissal and redundancy pay

There is, however, legal protection so:

  • they should not be discriminated against in the work place and, if they are, they could make a claim to an Employment Tribunal. This protection only applies to freelancers who fall under Part 5 of the Equality Act 2010 – that is those who are described as 'contract workers' and are contracted personally to do the work i.e. they cannot claim discrimination against the employer if they are contracted for the provision of services and hire someone else, or sub-contract someone else, to do the work – they must do the work themselves
  • they are entitled to a Safe and Healthy working environment (as above)
  • they should be paid for the work that they have done

Employee, worker or self-employed?

About this guide

Below is a brief guide to being an employee, a worker or self-employed. Remember, regardless of employment status, there should always be a contract in place.

Are you an employee?

An employee is a person employed under a contract of employment.

There are two elements to a contract of employment: mutuality of obligation and control which can help determine your employment status.

You are likely to be an employee if:

  • The employer provides you with your work, plus any tools and equipment for it, and the employer decides how and when you do the work
  • You have a written contract. The contract is called a 'contract of service'
  • You are expected to do the work that you are employed to do and may be moved to different tasks
  • You are paid a regular amount according to the hours you work and Tax and National Insurance is deducted from this pay
  • You have to work a set amount of hours. You may get extra pay for overtime and bonuses

Are you a worker?

A worker is not an employee and is said to be engaged under a contract of its own kind.

Workers are defined more widely than employees and are different from the genuinely self-employed. The status of worker includes individuals working under a variety of contracts. Employees are worker, but employees have different employment rights and responsibilities from workers.

Workers are usually:

  • Agency workers ('temps') – the Agency will find the work and pay the wages and the Company who hires the worker will pay the Agency for the work carried out
  • Short-term casual workers – casual workers are not usually part of the permanent workforce but supply their services on an irregular or flexible basis or have a 'minimum guaranteed hours' contract
  • The company deducts tax and National Insurance contributions from wages (PAYE system)
  • The company provides any tools, equipment or materials needed to undertake the work

Are you self-employed?

You are likely to be self-employed if:

  • You determine how and when you do the work within reason
  • You can hire helpers or replacements for yourself if you are unable to do the work
  • You pay your own tax and National Insurance contributions on a self-employed basis (by completing a Self Assessment tax return)
  • You are contracted to provide services to the client/employer over a certain period of time for an agreed fee
  • In effect, you run your own business and take financial responsibility if it is successful or not and provide the main items of equipment
  • You may work on your own premises and you may work for several different employers at one time

If you are self-employed, your contract is called a 'contract for service'

Introduction to employment status

Case study

Lewis has taught part-time for two years for a Music Service (who are the lead Hub organisation). He loves the work and looks forward to the contact he gets with other instrumental teachers he meets in the schools he works in. In a conversation with one teacher, he learns that the teacher has been contracted on a different employment contract from his one.

This means, for example, that the other teacher would be paid if they could not come into work because they were ill. Lewis has never been ill on a teaching day but he is concerned that he would lose income if he were ever sick.

As a member of the Musicians’ Union, Lewis approached his representative and asked them to explain why his contract appeared to be different. The MU rep explained to him that if he were to become sick,  he would be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay. They also explained to him that because he had satisfactorily passed his probationary period, he had an entitlement to other employment benefits such as holiday pay, access to a pension scheme and Statutory Paternity Pay as his other colleagues did.

Lewis checked this out with the Music Service and, in turn, the Music Service recognised how important it was to clarify what benefits teachers had on their contracts and produced a clear set of guidelines for their tutors and a staff handbook.

What you need to know

It is essential that you are aware of what the employment status is of the music tutors that you are engaging with. This is relevant in terms of pay, the rights and responsibilities they have.

In deciding the employment status of an individual, a variety of factors and circumstances need to be considered and not just the terms of contract. Currently, there is no single test to determine whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed. Factors to consider include:

  • control
  • personal service
  • equipment
  • financial risk
  • basis of payment
  • mutuality of obligation
  • holiday pay, sick pay and pension rights
  • part and parcel of the organisation
  • right to terminate a contract
  • personal factors
  • length of engagement
  • intention of the parties

(Cooke J said in - Case Law: Market Investigations Ltd v Minister of Social Security -

My incredible journey


Sam was a quiet but curious young lad. He had his first musical experience at the age of 6 when his school hosted a term-long creative music making project. The project focussed on bringing together Early Years singing, rhythm work (through untuned percussion) and composition.

Sam showed an aptitude for all the activities and began to develop a good ear. His class teacher was also enthused by the project and requested in-service support through Sing Up, ultimately using her training to make sure that her class continued to sing almost every day alongside the delivery of the National Curriculum.

When Sam was nine, his class attended a workshop all about woodwind and brass instruments where they got to hear all the different instruments. The workshop was led by players from the local professional orchestra. Sam was immediately drawn to the saxophone. At the end of the workshop, the class found out that they were going to be taking part in a year-long full class band project. This project, alongside delivery of the National Curriculum, ensured that Sam developed a broad contextual understanding of music and turned him into an enthusiastic performer and attentive listener.

Having chosen the saxophone, Sam concentrated well in class, although he found it hard to practise on his own at home. 'I like to play with my friends; it's kind of boring on your own.' The highlight of the year was going to see the players from their introductory workshop perform a young person's concert in the local Town Hall: 'It was amazing to hear them all play together - all the different sounds were amazing.'

In his first year of playing, Sam developed good technical and musical skills. Many of the skills he learnt in music helped him to improve his academic studies too and he found it easier to focus and apply himself to tasks. Seeing this improvement, his parents hired him a saxophone and paid for him to continue his tuition at school in small groups.

At age 13, Sam was doing well and he entered for his Grade 4 saxophone and attended the local Hub Saturday Music Centre where he got the chance to play in a band with other young people. He also began to play in the Junior Symphony Orchestra. The National Curriculum in School at Key Stage 3 provided him with a broader awareness of music, its genres and cultures.

Although Sam has decided that he doesn't want to pursue music as a career, he is keen to have it in his life. Developing his skills has allowed him to take part in the local Jazz Band and Big Band as well as the Hub Symphony Orchestra.

At 17, he took the opportunity to participate in a series of Jazz improvisation and composition workshops offered on week nights and this continued to broaden his skills and expertise in music. The workshops concluded in a gala performance where participants performed alongside their professional tutors and mentors. Sam also submitted his university applications aspiring to a career in science.

'Now that I am at university, I look back at my early years and appreciate how my involvement in music not only enriched my creative but academic developmen; I am so glad that music gave me a focus and taught me the discipline that I needed to succeed in any area of my life. Music has also enhanced my social life giving me opportunities to meet and work confidently with new people; I have made many friends that I hope I will know for the rest of my life.
'I still play in the university Big Band and now and then with the symphony orchestra, although I enjoy most of all gigging with my blues quartet at dinner dances and events in the town; it's far better than working in a supermarket to put some extra money in my pocket. Music will always be a central part of my life.'