Unenforceable employment rights in film & TV

TUC have authored a guide to enforcing workplace rights here (it’s an MS Word doc that downloads instantly).

There are two obvious ones in film & TV that we’d like to be considered in any updates.

  1. The 11-hour break between working days
  2. Holiday Pay

The 11 hour day

In feature films, the standard working day under the Bectu Major Motion Picture Agreement is “11+1” (i.e. 11 ‘shooting’ hours + one unpaid hour for lunch – so twelve elapsed hours).

On top of this, a number of departments (Hair & Makeup, Costume & Wardrobe, Assistant Directors and Locations among others) are expected to work up to 30 mins ‘prep’ and 30 mins ‘wrap’ and this work is ‘included in their daily rate’ (so it does not attract overtime payments).

Overtime for other departments is not uncommon – productions often expect to shoot for more than 11 hours – so this means that many workers are expected to be at work at 7:30am and will regularly leave after 8:30pm a number of times in a given week.

The irony is that this is the most regulated and accountable part of the industry. Low budget productions, and productions working outside of the union agreements have had a ‘buyout’ for years where all crew is given a deal that (in effect) says “if you work more than the hours we expect to work, you will have no compensation, no overtime, and no “time off the clock” payments.”

Time off the Clock is otherwise known as “compensatory rest” in law, and in Bectu/Pact agreements – where people are given paid time off (or just money) as compensation for not getting their full daily rest break. The way it is framed legally is that infringement of the breaks are not acceptable unless one of the reasons set out on here is met.

The problem is that this is not enforceable for freelancer workers. Anyone complaining would expect to be told…. “… that’s a really good point and we agree with you. In other news, we’ve decided to terminate your contract.”

For this reason, prior to the Bectu agreements with Pact in 2017, working into the 11-hour daily rest break was very common. Bectu wanted those agreements to flatly rule out such an infringement but the employers refused to accept this, and the union ended up having to accept a compensatory rest arrangement which – as that .gov website (linked above) says….

“[if] …there is an agreement between management, trade unions or the workforce (a ‘collective’ or ‘workforce’ agreement) that has changed or removed rights to these rest breaks for a group of workers”

… then the right to the 11 hour rest period can be waived. In the end, it was the least-worst option to take when employers refused to rule the practice out. As such, if this right were more enforceable for freelancers, it would protect working time rights more effectively.

Holiday Pay

The issue of calculating holiday pay is very contentious, and the only form of redress is one that most freelancers won’t use even if they can (Employment Tribunal).

So the correct rate of pay would be easier to enforce if it were legislated for appropriately.

This entry was posted in Bectu Agreements, Employment Contracts, Employment Law and Rights, Film & TV industry policy, Freelance working, Freelancer rights, Gig economy workers, Long hours, Safe working practices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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