Soho Staff and their holiday pay policy. Roxanne Peterson.

There used to be a company which went by the name of Soho Runners. As befits the name, it supplied runners to various facility companies in Soho.

This company became somewhat notorious for avoiding paying holiday pay to the Runners it employed by failing to pay their statutory entitlement as a matter of course, but by instead relying on freelancers to make a separate claim in order to secure it (and not taking any steps to remind them to do so).

Not only that, but they had a cut off date of the end of the year by which claims could be made so if you forgot about your legal right to the payment or simply omitted to claim it at the time, come the end of the year the company could keep all that lovely 10.77% for themselves.

Nice.

The individual who ran Soho Runners was Roxanne Peterson and she has now been recruited by the company set up in its place, Soho Staff. And it seems that bad habit has followed her to the new company as exactly the same policy has been adopted by Soho Staff for all the runners it now uses.

I asked Soho Staff whether they paid holiday pay after each booking of every Runner but they were somewhat coy in their response, refusing to explicitly say what they did. Fortunately there are enough Runners in the industry with their ear to the ground (and who are not happy with the way they have been treated by Soho Staff) to share details of their practices with me.

And this is what they reveal. When someone works for this company, in order to get paid they have to fill in a timesheet in order to get paid. Columns for Start Time, Lunchtime duration and End Time, all as expected. But wait – what’s this? – no column to claim your Holiday Pay, in fact no mention of it on the form at all!! The only way to get it it seems, is to manufacture a separate invoice and put that in. Fail to do that and bye bye holiday pay.

If anyone has worked for that particular company at any point during the last year do absolutely get an invoice in for the holiday pay they are making no effort to pay you. You earned it, you are owed it and there is absolutely no reason why you should not get it.

And if you’re a Runner in the industry, do of course join the Facebook Runners page, where all jobs are free to apply to, no-one makes any money out of you and every single employer pays holiday pay – and wants you to have it.

Leopard Pictures and the missing holiday pay.

The battle for holiday pay in our industry was one which freelancers won many years ago, a right confirmed by BECTU in a landmark European court victory in 2001. Most companies now do the right thing, adding holiday pay on top of the rate (usually 10.77%) and, where time off has not been taken, paying it at the end of the contract.

Most companies – but not Leopard Pictures, where numerous freelancers have been in contact to say that the company has been failing to pay holiday pay on top of the rate for the job on their current production “Hard Cell” starring Catherine Tate (and others).

What the Line Producer, Carleen Beadle-Larcombe, has been doing is agreeing a rate with a freelancer and then, after they have started the job, has then issued contracts which say that the holiday pay is “included”. That despite official guidance that it is unlawful to “roll up” holiday pay into a rate:

I asked her about this and she did not deny that this was what had happened, but she claimed that it was “standard procedure” (it absolutely is not). I was then referred to Amanda Goddard at the parent company Argonon who was initially happy to discuss the issue but then abruptly decided to pull up the drawbridge, offering only that anyone who had an issue with this should contact HR. That kind of suggestion is of course entirely unhelpful in an industry where freelancers are notoriously afraid of getting a bad reputation where everything relies so heavily on word of mouth recommendation.

This all comes in the same week that BECTU released a landmark report on the treatment of workers in the industry where freelancers talk of the frustration they feel about being duped by production companies who agree a rate only to find “the goalposts are moved” once they start the job. By not adding holiday pay on top of the rate, as many honourable companies do across the industry, Leopard Productions are, at best, clearly behaving with a lack of transparency and failing to deal with freelancers in a fair and straightforward way.

If anyone has been treated like this by Leopard Pictures, feel free to get in touch, in confidence (info@tvwatercooler.org). There are already several freelancers who are pretty fed up at being treated this way by a company which is happy to proclaim its desire to outlaw modern slavery and human trafficking (how much of this is there in the UK TV industry?) but less keen to fair deal with its freelancers by behaving in the way that the majority of good production companies do.

I wonder how many of these people, or these, found that their holiday pay was included in the pay they were offered for their jobs?