Grahame Morris MP has co-sponsored an Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Rebecca Long-Bailey, which acknowledges the severe hardship which the Covid-19 pandemic has caused for many freelance and self-employed workers, and notes that – despite being a major growth sector which is worth more than £111 billion to the UK economy – freelance workers in the media and creative industries have been left bereft of the many rights most employees take for granted.
The EDM specifically welcomes the National Union of Journalists’ (NUJ) #FairDeal4Freelances campaign, and the publication of the Freelance Rights Charter.
The Covid-19 crisis has further marginalised already vulnerable freelances working across the media industry.
The nature of freelance work means that – even before the present pandemic hit – too often, so-called “off-payroll” working in effect made people “zero-rights employees” with none of the rights of being an employee, or the tax advantages of being self-employed.
The NUJ wrote to the Chancellor on 3rd June, urging him to breach the gap in Government support for its members. Signatories acknowledged and welcomed the Self Employed Income Support Scheme and other forms of financial assistance which have been provided to workers, but outlined the sad reality that many in the media industry have fallen though the cracks in the safety nets provided by the Government.
The Freelance Rights Charter demands improved protections and benefits for freelance workers, regardless of employment status, by calling for:
- Trades union collective bargaining to improve terms and conditions for freelances side by side with staff
- Fair written contracts free from the threat of disadvantage for asserting their rights
- Respect for their creators’ rights and unwaivable moral rights
- Equalised rights with employees including; sick pay; maternity, paternity and parental leave; unemployment benefit; full access to benefits and social securities
- Choice over how they freelance and are taxed, with an end to advance tax payments
- Work free from pressure to operate on a PAYE basis, or to incorporate, or work through umbrella companies
- Equal health and safety protections including parity of training, insurances and security provision
- Fair fees and terms, and prompt payments
- Dignity and respect at work, free from bullying, harassment or discrimination, with parity of access to grievance procedures
- Equal professional rights, including the right to protect sources, seek information and uphold ethical standards.
Grahame Morris MP, Co-Chair of the NUJ Parliamentary Group, said “I am delighted to co-sponsor the EDM on rights for freelance workers in the media and creative industries. The nature of work in this sector means that many people have been excluded from Government support throughout the pandemic, with devastating consequences. I would urge the Government to adopt the principles outlined in the NUJ’s Freelance Rights Charter, to protect jobs and provide security.”