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A charter for freelance rights

The NUJ has published a freelance charter as part of its Fair Deal for Freelances campaign.

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The Charter as a PDF

It calls for the right to organise in a trade union, to have a written contract with fair terms and conditions, prompt payment and equal treatment at work in terms of health and safety. Freelances should get holiday pay, parental leave and allowances and a retirement pension. They should have the right to resist companies forcing them on to PAYE, to incorporate as a limited company, or work under umbrella companies.

The campaign will ask employers, employer organisations, industry bodies, politicians and individual supporters to sign up to its aims.

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: "The covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the need for a massive wake-up call about working practices in the media industry and shown why reformed public policy for freelances and the self-employed is vital.

"The rights and protections for freelances and the self-employed have been shown to be woefully lacking, so the NUJ is determined to fight to change that. That's why we're launching our new Fair Deal for Freelances campaign, with a 10-point Freelance Charter, to ensure their working conditions and terms of engagement are fit for purpose.”

Some suppport already

The House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee on 27 November recommended reform of freelance rights, saying: "We welcome the government's proposals to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner and encourage the government and the commissioner to work with freelance journalists to ensure that these new powers address the difficulties they face relating to unfair payment practices, including late payment, payment on publication and 'kill fees'."

The Select Committee calls on the government to "consult on whether further legislation is needed to strengthen the rights of freelancers, including whether contract law should be amended to ensure that freelancers are not solely liable for legal costs arising from their work and whether copyright law should be reformed to make freelance–author copyright ownership inalienable."

The charter demands for freelances:

  1. Trades union collective bargaining to improve terms and conditions for freelances side by side with staff
  2. Fair written contracts free from the threat of disadvantage for asserting their rights
  3. Respect for their creators' rights and unwaivable moral rights.
  4. Equalised rights with employees including: sick pay; maternity, paternity and parental leave; unemployment benefit; full access to benefits and social securities.
  5. Choice over how they freelance and are taxed, with an end to advance tax payments.
  6. Work free from pressure to operate on a PAYE basis, or to incorporate, or work through umbrella companies.
  7. Equal health and safety protections including parity of training, insurances and security provision
  8. Fair fees and terms, and prompt payments.
  9. Dignity and respect at work, free from bullying, harassment or discrimination, with parity of access to grievance procedures.
  10. Equal professional rights, including the right to protect sources, seek information and uphold ethical standards.

If you can help out with this campaign, please contact the Freelance Office.

The NUJ Freelance Charter builds on the Charter of Freelance Rights, adopted by the European Federation of Journalists in 2006. That was in turn inspired by NUJ publications including the Code of Practice for commissioning journalists.

Meanwhile...

The Creative Industries Federation wrote to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak on 20 November, asking him to introduce a Freelance Commissioner and a Future Workforce Commission. The Federation, led by employers and client companies, wrote jointly with the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) and the union Prospect to hope that these steps could "really get under the skin of how we build more resilience into this workforce and ensure no worker falls through the gaps".

And London Freelance Branch is in touch with the organisers of the online #FairDealForFreelancers campaign about co-operating on gathering information and campaigning with it. See the #FairDealForFreelancers letter calling on editors-in-chief and publishers and to pay its freelancers fairer, better and faster on Google Docs.