It’s time to change working life in our industry. Join this Facebook group to take part.

It’s a new initiative called the Television Freelancers Task Force and here’s the link to its new Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TelevisionFreelancersTaskForce/

It’s open to all to join and here’s what it’s all about, in the words of its founders:

The Television Freelancers Task Force is a new initiative for freelancers in the TV industry coming together with the hope of bringing change during these unprecedented times. With the industry currently experiencing enforced downtime, there has never been a better time to take stock and plan for positive change moving forward.

The group is made up of experienced industry freelancers who have come together to campaign for fundamental change within the industry.

We will present our ideas for change to the broadcasters and independent production companies and serve as a rally focus and partner for the unions and guilds who represent freelancers across the sector. Our goals and aims might be seen by some as ‘too idealistic’ – but what’s important is that we start the conversation.

The Television Freelancers Task Force (TFTF) is made up of Lou Patel, Michelle James and Natalie Grant from Share My Telly Job, Adeel Amini from The TV Mindset, James Taylor from Viva La PD, Adrian Pegg, Mark Watson and Benetta Adamson from The TV Watercooler and other leading industry Facebook Groups, and Jude Winstanley from The Unit List.

Whilst we will all continue to work on our individual campaigns, we realise, that as a collective, our reach across the industry is more significant. Together, we hope to be more effective in tackling the well-publicised issues freelancers face today.

Our aim is to come out from this crisis with fairer working conditions for freelancers right across the board.

Our Facebook Group is now live – our membership is an essential part of our mission to create a louder voice so, if you hope for a better work-life balance in an industry that acknowledges your talent, please join the group today.

We have attached our launch document which sets out our aims and goals. We endeavour to keep the group updated on matters that are changing quickly and with the progress we are making.

Please share this post with industry colleagues and join our Facebook group today

https://www.facebook.com/groups/TelevisionFreelancersTaskForce/

Thank-you!

Lou, Michelle, Natalie, Adeel, James, Adrian, Benetta, Mark and Jude

How Much Should I Be Paid?

We thought it would be a good idea to show the minimum you should be paid per hour. Holiday pay should be paid at the end of your contract for any untaken holiday, and on a casual engagement it should be added to the rate.

NMW Rates have been updated as of 1st April 2020

More detail

The government website has more details about NMW, employment rights for interns and work experience, as well as working as an intern and as an apprentice (they are NOT the same thing). (Apprentice holiday pay is not shown above as the rate is different from Workers).

See also You And The Minimum Wage

Runners’ pay – what should you ask for and should you ask for more?

Here’s a thing about pay.

Runners are often concerned about how to respond if they are asking what their pay rate is, or wonder if they can negotiate for a better rate than is being offered.

The issue is that employers in TV do not generally talk about pay until interview/offering the job. It’s been that way for around 25 years now and is unlikely ever to change as there is nothing in the employers’ interests to change it.

The way it works is that Line Producers/PMs work to a budget which has individual lines for each grade of staff they want to employ. There is a wee bit of wiggle room in there but generally speaking the biggest wiggle goes to the most desirable team members (eg the editor, a really capable PD, camera people). That leaves very little wiggle for runners, simple reason being that a lot of people can be a pretty decent runner so there is a lot of competition for every job and Line Producers know they can just pick up the next person in the queue and get them at the offered rate.

Generally speaking then, as a runner you aren’t going to get significantly above minimum wage. You can argue the toss and try to get a little more but really, you won’t get much more that what’s offered. So it’s best to regard being a runner as a loss leader, a starter job which allows you to get a better (and better remunerated) one. If you bank on getting minimum wage, anything else is then a bonus, and If you can’t work for roughly the minimum wage at the start of your career, you probably won’t make it in the business.

The best way to get paid more? (Don’t tell any PM/LP I told you this). Push for a higher rate of pay only once you’re in the door and you’ve done one show for a company/PM and you’re being offered a second gig. Once they know how good you are and you’ve shown what you have to offer, you have a tad more leverage.

And what to say if you are asked your rate? Well you could suggest what is on the BECTU rate card but a better option might be to say “I’m happy to accept whatever you think is fair”. Generally speaking you will probably then get whatever they have in the budget, which is far better than pitching for a bit more, missing and then not getting the job…

3 things all TV runners should know

1. Runners cannot be self employed, whatever a company may tell you. This seems to crop up a lot so here are the facts:

Runners must be paid via PAYE and are not permitted to be registered as self employed for their runner work. The only variation to this is that a runner can be paid gross if they work for fewer than seven days for a company, and there is no intention for them to be rebooked for further engagements. In this case, you can be paid gross however – crucially – the company MUST pay your National Insurance and must give you a pay slip which shows that. This does NOT however make a runner “self employed”. There is one other exception relating to getting a special letter of dispensation but it very rarely applies.

If a company tells you you must be self employed to do a job for them, or tells you you are “freelance”, or does not pay your NI then they are breaking HMRC’s rules and you will be losing out on a number of benefits by them treating you this way.

2. In terms of pay, every runner should be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour that they work. The minimum wage rates (including the new rate for over-25s) are here. To work out if you are getting the legal minimum, take the number of hours that you have actually worked (not including your lunch hour) and multiply that by the applicable minimum wage rate for your age. If the pay you receive for that day’s work is less than that amount (no matter what your agreed rate is) then you have been underpaid.

Many runners are often not paid what they should be because they are being worked for over-long hours for a rate of pay which is not sufficient to meet the legal minimum. Also, if you are taken on for unpaid work experience and are then simply treated as a worker, you should be paid at least the minimum wage for all your hours.

3. Runners should be paid holiday pay, accrued for every day they work. All workers earn an entitlement for time off when they work for a company. In an ideal world, they would be allowed to have that time off while they are working, however the demands of production mean that most TV workers are unable to take that time off during a production.

If that happens then the company should pay you an amount of money on top of your pay in lieu of that holiday. That amount comes to 10.77% of the amount you have been paid. That sum should be passed to you at the conclusion of your contract and cannot be “rolled up” into your rate of pay (- ie they cannot say at the beginning of your contract “this is your daily rate and it includes holiday pay”).

If you need personal advice on any of this, feel free to email Mark Watson on derrywatson@gmail.com. Advice is entirely free and confidential to you

What is the difference between “being freelance” and being “self employed”

“Being freelance” generally means that you are someone who works for a lot of different employers. It isn’t a statement of your tax position (the word “freelance” means nothing in tax terms), it is simply a way of describing the way you arrange your work life.
“Being self employed” has an official meaning however. It defines the legal status of your working life. To become “self employed” you have to register with HMRC and fill in the self employed pages of your self assessment tax return every year. You will be able to claim certain expenses against your income but you do lose some important rights.
“Self assessment” is one way that HMRC can be informed about what income you have and what tax you therefore owe. Many people have very simple tax affairs, they work for one employer who deducts tax and NI when they are paid and they have no substantial savings or investment income etc. These people do not have to register for self assessment and do a tax return every year as they have paid their tax in full automatically. When someone’s tax affairs become a little more complicated they will have to complete a self assessment tax return every year (they either apply to do this or HMRC write and tell them to). In that way they can notify HMRC of their financial situation so they can pay the correct tax. Any extra tax owed is paid in lump sums at the end of January and July every year, including some in advance for the following tax year, based on HMRC’s estimate of how much might be owed. Where these estimates are wrong, HMRC readjusts the amount owed in the following year.

Unpaid work experience – your questions answered

IMG_2568
 So what’s the big issue?
The issue is that many Film and TV companies are breaking the law with regard to not paying young people the National Minimum Wage where it is due. They will take on someone as a “runner” or “work experience” (using the claim that it is “good for your CV” or “good experience”) and then not pay them. This is illegal. Every worker (with a few minor exceptions) is entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for every hour they work. The current minimum wage rates are here. (This is for short engagements, holiday pay will be paid at the end of a long contract unless you have taken holiday).

If it’s illegal, why do these companies do it?
Some do it because they don’t know the rules (and every employer with a duty of care should) and some do it because they think they can get away with it. The 2005 TVWRAP campaign highlighted the issue of illegal unpaid work in the TV industry which encouraged a lot of companies now to abide by the law of the land. The better companies (like Granada, RDF and Endemol) do not take on young people to do unpaid work, however there are still some companies who risk the wrath of the Inland Revenue by using young people as workers and not paying them.


But what about “work experience” or an “internship” – surely that doesn’t need to be paid?
If it is just “shadowing” or the work experience is part of a course, for a full time student only, organised by the relevant academic institution and is a required part of that course (i.e the student has to do the work experience to pass) then people on work experience or internships need not be paid the NMW. The National Council for Work Experience say this:

“Government legislation in respect of the National Minimum Wage means that UK employers can no longer offer unpaid work experience, unless they are doing it as part of their course”

http://www.work-experience.org/ncwe.rd/ … rs_149.jsp

The problem is that most companies use the phrase “work experience” to cover a multitude of sins. Proper work experience involves training and assessment, agreed goals and a plan – it is primarily of benefit to the young person involved. “Work experience” which involves someone coming in to an organisation and doing jobs is not work experience, it is work. If it is work the person involved must be paid at least the NMW, whether it involves some residual training benefit to that person or not. Also an individual cannot voluntarily forgo the right to be paid the NMW where it is due.


But aren’t these people “volunteers”?
The NMW rules re volunteers are designed to deal with the issue of clubs and charities who may have people who give their time freely and without obligation. Someone on work experience is not a volunteer if they are given tasks to carry out, set hours, set meal breaks, appear on a call sheet or are doing tasks that a paid member of staff would otherwise be doing. That is work, and that must legally be paid the NMW. As the PACT rules state (rewritten after a meeting with the DTI) “A work experience person who…is expected to obey instructions should be paid at least the national minimum wage”.

The other issue is the question of how “voluntary” this work experience really is when every young person who enters the TV industry has to do it as a condition of getting paid employment. A recent survey found that almost all young people have had to do at least 3 months unpaid work before they get a paid job in the industry. That makes the “voluntary” nature somewhat suspect.


Why should I care about this?
Firstly because it is manifestly unfair that keen young people should be exploited in this way, for their labour to be used as a way of propping up the budgets of a TV production company. Of all the people on a production team, why should the youngest, weakest and probably most hard working be treated in this way?

Secondly young people who do unpaid work have to have independent means to support themselves while they are unpaid – that usually means their parents or their own savings. It often means that the less well off are thereby denied an opportunity to pursue a career in Film and Television. Fair?

And one very good point made by others – if companies can get people to do their work for free, why should they ever pay a wage to anyone. That then cascades upwards so the next level up is devalued and then the next.

The inevitable end point – no-one values real TV skills and no-one wants to pay for them.

An exaggeration? You ask the nearest Make Up Artist what has happened to their industry…


Surely that’s the price to pay if people want to break into a highly competitive industry?
Apart from the fact that it is illegal to use people in this way, why should young people have to give their time and effort unpaid just because lots of people want to do it? Should the basic morality of “a fair day’s pay for a day’s work” be compromised just because the media is a “glamorous” career?


Never did me any harm – it toughens you up – you need to be tough in the TV industry, it’s good training.
Listen Grandad the world’s moved on since your day – in case you hadn’t heard they scrapped National Service as well. The “toughening up” argument is nonsense – there are many skills you need to be a good TV Researcher/Producer/Cameraman/Director etc; the ability to generate good ideas, tell a story, frame a shot, capture good sound, prioritise, write good dialogue, manage people, manage budgets, have vision etc etc. Being able to live on fresh air is way way down the list.


OK I’m convinced, what can I do about all these companies who are exploiting young people and breaking the law?
Tell everybody about it – let everyone know who the offenders are right here.

Oh and join the union (BECTU) too – it really is the best way to start your career!

And of course you can also shop the offenders to the Inland Revenue. It’s easy to do (details available through this site). You can do it anonymously and the Revenue will never reveal your name. Or, if you don’t want to, PM me (click on my name) or send me an email (derrywatson@gmail.com) and I’ll do it for you. Your anonymity is guaranteed to be sacrosant – no-one will ever know.

HMRC always want to know about the people who break this law. And when HMRC get interested in a company on an issue like this, they tend to start looking at all aspects of a company’s finances – companies will soon realise it just isn’t worth the risk for a few hundred quid…


Unpaid work in TV is on its way out – we’ve come a long way in five years, let’s kill it for good.

*Edited to update the NMW rates*


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