April inflation figures – again, worse than expected

Even by the standards of the past 18 months where all forecasts have been shown to be over-optimistic, the leap in CPI inflation between March and April from 7% up to 9% is a startling one. Here’s the ONS summary page.

As every news broadcaster is reminding us, it’s the highest rate for 40 years (March 1982, it was at 9.1% on remodeled figures because CPI wasn’t used as a measure in the 1980s).

RPI is at a staggering 11.1% and CPIH is at 7.8%. If you’re confused by the different ways of measuring inflation (you should be!) there’s a useful outline here [PDF].

You can find out more about how this affects your housing costs here (including a personal calculator).

Posted in Economics, Inflation, Low pay, Pay & inflation, Wages and Pay-rates | Tagged , | Leave a comment

BFC Working Safety During CoViD-19 Guidance

Here is the latest version of the British Film Commission guidance on this issue [pdf] (posted without comment).

Posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Feature film data, Health & Safety, High End TV data, Low budget features, Safe working practices, Safe working standards | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bectu mental health hub

This webpage on the Bectu site includes links to our campaign to give workers the right to switch off from work along with guidance on managing mental health and stress at work, along with some of the union’s work on the future of work.

Well worth a look, and circulating if you get a moment

Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Health & Safety, Illness and disability, Mental Health, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged | Leave a comment

Broadcasting White Paper published

The DCMS has published its Broadcasting White Paper promising “a new golden age of programming” with changes to regulations on SVoDs, sports rights, and the privatisation of Channel 4. One change is that C4 will be able to start producing its own content – to become a production company as well as a distributor of independent content.

There’s a useful round up here from Advanced Television and there will, no doubt, be more on this from the union to follow.

Posted in BBC, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, High End TV data, Public Service Broadcasting, SVoD | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Labour market enforcement – update

Reading my copy of PIRC’s quarterly Work newsletter, I see that there’s no mention of the budget / timetable for the proposed Single Enforcement Body (SEB) that we are hoping to see from the UK government.

There is an ongoing consultation on the UK’s labour market enforcement strategy though. Overseen by Margaret Beels, who was appointed in November 2021, the SEB will set the strategic direction for the 3 existing labour market enforcement bodies:

  • the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate
  • the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority
  • HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team

PIRC’s own review of employment-related violations among the FTSE 350 reveals only 8 PLCs have been caught by HMRC for underpayment of wages between 2016-2019. Continue reading

Posted in Employment Contracts, Employment Law and Rights, Gig economy workers, Low pay, Minimum wage rates, Wages and Pay-rates | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Bectu ‘Live to Work’ campaign launched

Bectu has launched the Live to Work campaign aimed at improving terms and conditions in the UK TV drama industry. You can visit the campaign page here and join the network (open to members and non-members), download images to use on social media and order campaigning materials.Live to Work campaign

Bectu National Secretary, Spencer MacDonald says: Continue reading

Posted in Bectu Agreements, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, TV Drama Agreement, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Update: CoViD health and safety guidance – links

Here are some use useful links that include the latest guidance.

UK Government

NHS

HSE (England, Scotland and Wales)

Cast and crew health and wellbeing

Bectu pages

Posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Health & Safety, Mental Health, Safe working practices, Safe working standards | Leave a comment

Halyna Hutchins – Rust producers – “demonstrated plain indifference to employee safety”

There’s a lot more investigating to take place, not least into the question of how a live round ended up in a prop gun. But here’s CCN’s account of the report released by New Mexico Environment Department’s Occupational Health & Safety Bureau.

It would be a mistake to comment on this before all of the full facts are known but this issue will be being watched closely by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and Bectu will be raising it as part of the union’s regular engagement with health and safety structures.

There are currently discussions about reviewing parts of the UK’s guidance on use of armoury on set in the wider context of prop weapons.

Posted in Equipment and kit, Health & Safety, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Whistleblowing | Tagged | Leave a comment

Demand for UK studio space v Netflix subscriber drop

Two stories passing each other in this week’s newspapers. Firstly, a good fact-packed briefing from The Times [£] on how demand for studio space is multiplying at the moment, to meet the demands of SVoD productions:

“UK production spend is expected to rise sharply, to more than £11 billion a year by 2026, up from £5.6 billion last year.”

And…

“…the property agency Knight Frank estimates that the UK will need an extra 6 million sq ft of studio space over the next five years if the sector is to keep pace with growing demand…”

Knight Frank may want to ask themselves where the skills capacity to meet that demand is going to be found though? On top of all of the other developments that you can look at on this blog’s UK Studio Watch updates, there’s also this:

“Last year Netflix struck a deal with Segro, the FTSE 100 warehouse landlord, to occupy around 230,000 sq ft of production space in Enfield.”

However, moving in the other direction, there’s the widely reported drop in Netflix subscriptions. As the BBC reported, $50bn has been wiped off Netflix’s value because…. Continue reading

Posted in Film & TV industry data, SVoD, Tax incentives | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Useful bookmarks on freelance employment and tax policies

Here’s something written by Alan Lockey for Demos – “Free Radicals – Britain’s self-employed millions urgently need a new deal…” [pdf], and an IPSE’s 2017 ‘tax manifesto’ paper on “A Fairer, More Efficient Tax System” [pdf]

(h/t Martin McIvor)

Posted in Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gig economy workers, IR35, Personal Service Companies, Tax, Welfare and benefits | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ADs guide for working with Background Artists / Supporting Artists / Doubles / Stand-Ins.

My colleague Emily Collin has been working with the POP agency platform to support Assistant Directors and productions understand the new FAA-Pact Agreement and best practice when working with Background Artists/Supporting Artists/Doubles/Stand-Ins.

There’s a video here, along with a one-page best practice guide for ADs has also been produced and can be downloader here [pdf].

Posted in Bectu Agreements, FAA Agreement | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Understanding commuting costs – some bookmarks

For freelancers working either in film and TV, or in Live Events, there is often no option to use public transport to get to work. For a typical filming day, Bectu members tell us that they tend to arrive at their place of work well before 8am in preparation for a day that formally starts at 8am.

They will often be at that workplace for 12+ hours

The journey below – a typical one based on a Bectu member spoken to recently – is from Tottenham to Pinewood arriving at 7.45am. To do this journey by public transport would involve being at a bus-stop well before 5am and spending more 2 hours and 30 minutes on a journey consisting of a trip on the tube, an overground rail journey and two buses at either end. Both ways. And Google maps shows the first viable public transport option for the return journey starting after 8pm involves starting the journey at 5:45am the following morning.

Given the length of the working day, it would be fair to say that public transport isn’t really an option here, even with the best will in the world.

Even the car journey is well over an hour each way though. If this journey were tax-deductible (and a commute generally isn’t, unless the worker is driving a Production Vehicle transporting kit to-and-from – in which case it can also be paid time!) HMRC would allow the driver to claim 45p per mile (so £20 – £30 a day in this case). To calculate the real car running costs, we can look at this AA website. Continue reading

Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, UK studios, Work-life balance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Professionally Made, Professionally Paid – Equity campaign

Just a quick bookmark for an excellent bit of campaigns literature from Bectu’s sister union Equity – Professionally Made, Professionally Paid – an important part of the steps unions are taking to promote a professional attitude to the arts against the backdrop of exploitative attitudes that often prevail – especially in the arts sector.

Posted in Employment, Freelance working, Theatre and Live Events data | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What happens when a safety inspector calls?

What should happen when an HSE inspector visits your workplace?

To answer this question, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are hosting an event for Trade Union Health and Safety Representatives, providing an overview of the regulation, inspection, and enforcement of workplace health and safety. It is specifically aimed at a Scottish audience but Bectu reps everywhere are welcome to join.

HSE and Local Authority regulators, along with union safety representatives, will explain how regulation works in practice and how inspectors engage with representatives to support their vital contribution to protecting the health, safety and welfare of workers.

Please note the Microsoft Teams link below for this event on Thursday 21st April from 4pm to 6pm: there is no pre-registration for this event for participants/attendees, so other than the designated HSE, Environmental Health and trade union main speakers, participants can just join on the day at 3.50pm,

JOIN EVENT – When a Health and Safety Inspector Calls
THURSDAY 21st April 4pm to 6pm.

With:

  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Environmental Health
  • STUC
  • Scottish Hazards
  • TUC Education in Scotland

There will be several HSE, and Environmental Health staff present at the event and H&S union reps and trade unionists can ask questions throughout the event, by either using the chat function or by sending queries before the event.

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Personal Protective Equipment should always be provided by engagers when needed – even for freelancers of all kinds

We have contacted HSE for confirmation that PPE should always be provided by engagers and the fact that a worker is not a direct employee is no defence. For full details of this guidance, see here.

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, Safe working practices, Safe working standards | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bectu / UK Theatre code of conduct for “Get-ins, Fit-ups & Get-outs”

Doug McGill has forwarded this to me. From the Preface:

“The original Code of Conduct for Get-ins, Fit-ups and Get-outs was created as a result of a serious accident during the unloading of stage flooring on the back of a wagon for a theatrical production. The accident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and subsequently discovered a number of safety concerns relating to poor working practices, competence of employees and a tradition of excessive working hours within the theatre industry. The HSE advised the whole industry that a culture change was required for get-ins, fit-ups and get-outs with the change being led by the industry rather than the regulator to
prevent further accidents from occurring.

Following Union and Employer consultation the new code was jointly agreed by UK Theatre (UKT) & BECTU becoming part of the union agreement. It represents a benchmark of best practice within technical theatre to protect the safety and well-being of employees for both the resident and production management. It sets minimum standards to ensure safety during production activities which should be adopted wherever reasonably practicable.”

Posted in Bectu Agreements, Equipment and kit, Freelance working, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, The working environment | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Global standard for safe listening venues and events – World Health Organisation guide

WHO safe listening standardsThe World Health Organisation has published a global standard for safe listening venues and events.

It’s a guide to governments, public health agencies, those involved in the creation, distribution, and amplification of music, the private sector, civil society, and everywhere else.

It provides standards on how they exercise the duty of care that they have in understanding the sound levels to which audiences and consumers are being exposed and creating environments that promote safe listening.

Aside from the obvious and valuable contribution to audience safety (and the even larger contribution to the safety of people who work in venues all of the time), it’s an interesting read – and not only for sound nerds. Continue reading

Posted in Equipment and kit, Health & Safety, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Theatre and Live Events data | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Government identity checks system changes

If you are self-employed, and you don’t have any of the following…

  • a UK passport,
  • pay slip,
  • tax credit
  • Northern Ireland driving licence

… you may find yourself trying to file your next tax return on paper. I’m mentioning this not because I have any suggestions on how to get around this problem (as far as I can see, there aren’t any) but because it’s probably worth knowing about it as far in advance as possible.

More on this here.

Posted in Freelance working, Tax | Tagged | Leave a comment

The Flexibility Paradox

The TUC and Working Families are hosting a launch for a book called The Flexibility Paradox by Dr Heejung Chung on Wednesday 20 April at 1400.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible working has become the norm for many workers. But we know there is still much work to do to get fair flexibility for everyone.
In her new book, Dr Chung uses data from around the world to offer an original examination of the gendered impacts of flexible working. Bectu officials and reps are invited to attend the launch to discuss Dr Chung’s research and what her findings mean for organisations campaigning on flexible working and those who want to strengthen flexible working rights. Continue reading

Posted in Freelancer rights, Gender equality, Remote working, The working environment, Work-life balance | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Freelancers Make Theatre Work

Freelancers Make Theatre Work is an organisation that came into being in 2020. They did their first freelance survey in June of that year called The Big Freelancer Survey.

At the time, 9000 freelancers signed up to their platform, and it was driven substantially by CoViD issues. That survey looked at how CoViD had affected people (SEISS, Furlough, etc). It also aimed to check in on well-being – qualitative and quantitative data.

8,000 freelancers filled out the survey and it led to a report called ‘Routes to Recovery’ which TMFW believes influenced the decision for the £1.75bn CRF fund.

All of this led to a second report called ‘The Big Freelancer Report‘ in January 2021 which revealed common themes, such as… Continue reading

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How to calculate inflation between two dates.

Imagine you wanted to work out what an inflation-rate increase between two dates is? Here’s an outline that I’ve drafted with extensive help from Nick Kardahji in the Prospect research team.

Say you are preparing a pay claim for some workers who haven’t had a pay rise since October 2017. Currently, the most recent figures available are for February 2022. Say, you want to know what a level-with-inflation increase would be for someone who hasn’t had a pay rise since January 2017. You will need to use the “inflation indices” (see below for an explanation of what these are).

Stage one: Get the data.

Behind the easy-to-read web pages that tell you the current rates of inflation, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) website also publishes all of this data in spreadsheets that can be downloaded from their website. For this purpose, you are going to need CPI and RPI data. These can be found by downloading the spreadsheet from this page (look for the green button – “Current edition of this dataset”).

Finding inflation data You can open this in MS Excel or other compatible spreadsheet programs. Look for the tabs – the CPI figures are in the “Table 20A, 20B, 20C” tab, and the RPI figures are in “Table 36”.

Stage two: Do the (easy) sums

Let’s start with RPI.

You will see that, in January 2017, RPI had an index of 265.5  while the most recent index (Feb 2022) is 320.2

  • 265.5 ÷ 100 = 2.655
  • 320.2 ÷ 2.655 = 120.60
  • So the percentage increase is  20.6%

Unions tend to argue for RPI, and employers tend to prefer the lower CPI rate, so it may help you to know what they are going to offer. Continue reading

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Fatigue in the TV and film industy

There’s a useful summary of this issue on the IOSH magazine website here.

It’s got a lot of the kind of thing you’d expect (including a quote from our own Spencer MacDonald).

And this:

“Research says that when an employee works more than 12 hours, the risk of an incident doubles; the risk trebles after 16 hours (HSE, 1999) “

It also includes something from Karl Simmons of FYLD who talks about the problem with using overtime as the main regulator of long working hours – he proposes ideas like asking people to expressly call their manager to discuss a lengthened working day, but

“…employees may have competing priorities – they may be chasing the overtime, it might be coming up to Christmas, or they simply forget to call.”

Discussing this article yesterday with members of Bectu’s Locations branch, one of them sent me this article on the dangers of sleep deprivation – it includes a list of major accidents that have been caused by tiredness.

Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, High End TV data, Long hours, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Wellbeing, Work-life balance, Workplaces | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How inflation is affecting individual households

Further to the previous post on the cost of living, Bectu reps may wish to circulate this Office for National Statistics (ONS) page on how to calculate your personal cost-of-living changes.

Posted in Economics, Housing costs, Inflation, Low pay, Minimum wage rates, Pay & inflation, Wages and Pay-rates, Welfare and benefits | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Getting the current cost-of-living crisis in perspective

How can we understand the current cost of living crisis in perspective when talking to Bectu members about their wages?

One way would be to look at it over a few years. In the past few days, coincidentally, I’ve had two different requests for advice from people who last increased their rates in Autumn 2019. Because a lot of things stagnated over the course of the pandemic, it’s an interesting scenario to look at.

So imagine that you were paid £1000 to do a job in October 2019, and you were offered the chance to do it again today (29 months later). Using this inflation calculator, you would need to charge

  • £1,102 if you wanted your pay to keep pace with RPI inflation. The cost of goods and services as measured by RPI has grown by 10.2% over that period. Someone who was giving themselves an annual pay increase would have needed to increase their wages by an average of 4.3% each year during that period.
  • £1,067 – a 6.7% increase over those 29 months – if you were doing the same calculation using CPI. Someone who was giving themselves an annual pay increase during that period to keep pace with CPI inflation would have needed to increase their wages by an average of 2.73% over that period.

Inflation is also now being forecast to be here for a while – see the current Treasury forecasts document here [pdf]. However, inflation rates aren’t the only factors in play when thinking about the cost of living. Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Freelance working, Inflation, Low pay, Pay & inflation, Wages and Pay-rates, Wealth inequality, Welfare and benefits | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Sunak’s spring statement 2022 – initial details

Firstly, with inflation up again at 6.2% from 5.5%, the growth forecasts are fairly conservative at the moment and “we don’t really know how the situation in Ukraine will affect all of this” runs like a subtext to all of today’s announcements, fears about how the cost of borrowing will continue to rise with record interest payments are also a big factor here and form the backdrop to the 2022 Spring Statement.

Everything else we can hear in the statement should be heard against the deafening noises-off from the cost of living crisis though.

So the chancellor is in a very unenviable situation, and he’s responded with a relatively short Spring Statement, the highlights of which are… Continue reading

Posted in Economics, Freelance working, Inflation, Low pay, National Insurance Contributions (NICs), Productivity, Tax | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

EntitledTo – understanding benefits entitlements

The EntitledTo website is worth bookmarking.

It aims to offer reliable estimates of benefit entitlements for individuals based on the detailed knowledge that they claim to have of the UK’s social security system.

The site has some useful benefits calculators that allow visitors to determine whether they are getting the right amount of money in their benefit claims and if they’re eligible for any other benefits.

The site is also useful for people who need to get their head around the way that any Government welfare reforms take effect, as and when they do.

Posted in Pensions, Wages and Pay-rates, Welfare and benefits | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Skills shortages in film & TV – update

There’s a useful roundup in the i-Paper showing the scale of the studio expansion and growing physical production capacity that the UK has, in contrast to the roster of available skills which will leave an estimated “40,000 workers needed to crew productions by 2025”

“Low-budget independent films, in the £3m to £6m range, are struggling the most. One producer reported a search through 72 first-assistant directors before finding one available candidate, who then quoted a wage 40 per cent above what was assigned in the budget.”

There’s also a useful map in there showing where all of the work is being done.

Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, High End TV data, Quotas, Skills & capacity, SVoD, Tax incentives, UK studios | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Inflation – latest

Not a detailed post but a useful snapshot.

 

Posted in Economics, Inflation, Wages and Pay-rates | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Your day-one right to a written statement of particulars (and a wider written statement within two months)

You may already be aware that, since 2020, employees and workers now have a right to a written statement of employment particulars before they start work. Details of what should be on that ‘principal statement’ can be seen on that link (above).

In a bit more detail, you are actually entitled to two things here:

The first one is the right to a “written statement of employment particulars” which has be given to the worker before they start (containing the ‘principal statement). Continue reading

Posted in Employment Contracts, Employment Law and Rights | Tagged | Leave a comment

Using online forums – avoiding troll-bait

There’s a useful introduction to the concept of ‘troll-bait’ on the Snopes website here – what it is, and how to avoid it.trollface

(find out more about Trollface here)

Posted in Organising Skills | Tagged , | Leave a comment

What to do if you want to be enroled on an employer pension scheme from day one (and the employer says “no”)

Freelancers – and anyone who works short contracts of employment – may find that they lose a lot by not being auto-enrolled in pension schemes from day one.

If an employer refuses your request to be put onto the auto-enrolment pension from day one, they are very likely to be in breach of the Pensions Regulator’s (TPR) guidance on automatic enrolment.

  1. When using the postponement period for a probationary period they should set this out to new employees. TPR has a template the employer should use here: Postponement letter template for all employees
  2. They should automatically enroll all staff that request to be enrolled during this period.

Our in-house Prospect pension specialist Stewart Mott has sent me an extract of the TPR website below with key sections highlighted (our emphasis). Continue reading

Posted in Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Pensions | Tagged | Leave a comment

Changes to Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance (CoViD)

On Monday, the Prime Minister announced an end to day-one access to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), effective from the 1st April 2022. After that point, workers suffering from CoViD-related illness will have to wait until their fourth day of illness to qualify for SSP.

Commentary on the announcement was dominated by reaction to the end of free CoVid testing, but it was bundled in with changes to SSP and Employment and Support Allowance (ESA).

SSP is a payment of £96.35 per week that an employer must pay to an employee who is too ill to work.

It normally becomes payable from the fourth ‘qualifying day’ (i.e. the fourth day that an employee would normally be required to work) and this has been the case for people with non-CoViD-related illnesses throughout the pandemic. Continue reading

Posted in Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Low pay | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Bectu Mental Health and Welbeing Policy published

This was an idea that came from Bectu members during the pandemic. We did a load of online sessions discussing different aspects of the question “what is wrong with ‘the freelance deal’?” and there was a repeated refrain saying “our employers often don’t have any kind of HR department – we get hired, expected to hit the ground running, and our own mental health and welfare have to take a back seat to the demands of the job.”

So we set about drafting up a set of model policies and procedures that productions could adopt. This has now been published with the Film & TV Charity‘s endorsement. Companies employing freelancers can now adopt these templates and apply them so that workers will have the reassurances that they need on this issue – from day one of their employment.

Here it is.

 

Posted in Feature film data, Film & TV industry data, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Health & Safety, High End TV data, Long hours, Management, Mental Health, Safe working practices, Safe working standards, Wellbeing, Work-life balance | Tagged | Leave a comment

The cost of employing someone

I’ve written something that has been hanging over me for months – something I needed to write to understand the issue myself, but also something that will help me explain this issue to others. It’s here if you want to see the detail around what I’m telling you in this post [pdf].

It’s something that I think every union rep and official would benefit from knowing more about. Understanding employment and costs from the employer point of view.

Employees tend to think of themselves as being categorised by their salary. They will say things like “I earn £24,000 a year. I take home about £19,000.”

But another way of looking at it is the question of how much they are worth to their employer. If you have a headline salary of £24k (take-home £19k), you will be costing your employer a total of £27,000 in payroll costs (the £3k extra being Employer’s Class A NICS, employer pension contributions, and a couple of other small statutory costs. Continue reading

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Even more on Adrian Chiles – IBOYOA

Last week, reading about Adrian Chiles judgement, there was one thing that I read, and thought that the report had managed a bit, so i passed it over.

It was something about Adrian Chiles being ‘part and parcel’ of his own business. Being part and parcel of an engagers business is usually an indicator of someone not being self-employed.

However, Contractor UK have published their report, and I  now realise that I wasn’t misreading what they said at all. Chiles was ‘part and parcel of his own business’ which meant he was self-employed. He was ‘in-business-on-your-own-account’ – or IBOYOA. Continue reading

Posted in Freelance working, Freelancer rights, IR35, Personal Service Companies, Tax | Tagged , , | Leave a comment