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'Army of talented and skilled freelancers' underpin creative sector, says report

A new report from the Creatives Industries Federation says improving the lives of freelancers will grow business, the creative industries and the economy.

17 July 2017

The Creative Industries Federation (CIF) has published a report today (Monday 17 July) which champions the needs of freelancers across the creative sectors.

The authors of Creative Freelancers, Eliza Easton and Evy Cauldwell-French, also present a number of challenges to government motivated by the desire to see an already successful sector grow still further. 

"The creative industries are the fastest growing part of the economy. The sector is built on an army of talented and skilled freelancers - from the film director to the games designer, the potter to the sound engineer." the report opens up.

"Of the creative workers in the sector, 47% are self employed, compared with 15% across the workforce as a whole.There are also significant numbers of freelance creative workers in other sectors."

Of course BECTU is a well recognised advocate of the needs of freelancers, providing essential daily services and support to members, as well as representing the needs of this vital part of the creative workforce to government and policy makers.

Over the past 20 years, in particular, the union has sought to extend or develop collective agreements with the major employers to reflect their reliance on freelance labour. BECTU had some success with the BBC but less unfortunately with ITV plc which relies as much on staff as freelance workers for its core output. Several of the union's agreements in theatre also cater for freelancers and casuals.   

Happily, the CIF report highlights the need for change in areas which our own members recognise: unpaid work, late payment, mutual respect between employers and freelancers, diversity and inclusion and business infrastructure.

Recommendations

Important too are the report's recommendations in terms of representation in government, immigration, careers and higher education. On the immigration point, however, BECTU believes that the industry should be doing much more to develop homegrown talent to meet identified skills shortages. Certain roles in VFX have been on the shortage occupation list for eight years now, says BECTU, time enough to further develop the talent base here says BECTU. 

The report also calls for better business support for freelancers, protection of creative spaces by local authorities, high quality online training, a better finance regime to support the expansion of creative businesses, more flexible treatment in relation to social security to reflect the peaks and troughs of freelance life and a thorough examination of the impact of Making Tax Digital on freelancers.

On Universal Credit BECTU has argued that freelancers should not have to evidence a 35-hour week to qualify for Universal Credit. On Making Tax Digital, BECTU believes that the proposal for quarterly returns should not apply to freelancers earning below the annual VAT threshold of £85K. 

Case studies

Creative Freelancers draws on feedback from 700 freelancers and 50 industry organisations and includes a number of case studies which illustrate the resilience of freelancers, albeit within a social and political context which needs reform. 

"Overall BECTU welcomes this report as a valuable contribution to a critical debate. The creative sectors punch above their weight with their contribution to our economy, but in some quarters this success masks a lack of understanding and exploitation which places an unfair burden on our freelancers. With support in key areas, our freelancers would get the recognition they deserve and our creative sectors would continue to thrive," said Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU. 

Find the Creative Freelancers report here

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