Creative Industries Federation launches drive to support important freelance workforce

July 17, 2017

The Creative Industries Federation today launches a drive to transform the working lives of the freelance workers who are the backbone of Britain’s brilliant creative economy.

The actress Imelda Staunton supported the new initiative by speaking of her personal experience of being a freelance at an event at the National Theatre in London this morning.

Other famous freelancers Samuel West, Stephen Frears, AL Kennedy and Sophie Kinsella also backed the move to improve understanding of creative freelance workers so that government policies can better support what they do.

A new Federation report, Creative Freelancers, draws on evidence from 700 freelancers and around 50 organisations that use them to demonstrate who these workers are and what they do for the fastest growing sector of the British economy. 

Nearly half of the creative workers in the creative industries - 47 per cent - are freelance compared with 15 per cent across the workforce as a whole.

It shows how they are distinct from workers in the co-called ‘gig economy’ - who were the focus of last week’s Taylor review into modern employment practices - and enormously important to the creative economy.

But a lack of understanding by policy makers means freelancers have been ignored or poorly served. For example, there is no visa for freelancers and universities are judged by the numbers of students in full-time employment after graduation, even in careers where a portfolio of freelance work is better training.

The report highlights practical issues, from tax returns to affordable workspace, where government could act to make a difference. It also challenges the sector to take responsibility for bad practices such as late payment and the prevalence of unpaid work.

Recommendations to improve the working lives of the self-employed include: 

  • Piloting ways of providing sustainable social security for freelancers
  • Providing extra support during transition to Making Tax Digital and quarterly tax returns
  • Protecting freelancers’ creative workspaces against development
  • Making self-employment, across all sectors, part of a ministerial brief in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • Supporting an independent UK-wide virtual hub - a business booster network - which would be a one-stop shop for business advice and facilitate peer-to-peer mentoring for creative entrepreneurs

Last week’s review of modern employment practices by Matthew Taylor looked at what protections those who are self-employed, especially those working in the gig economy, might need. It did not look at the particular policy requirements of the creative sector.

Harriet Finney, deputy director of the Creative Industries Federation, said: “The Creative Freelancers report aims to kickstart a proper examination of the creative freelance workforce and encourage government to act to improve the conditions of their working lives. Government needs to better understand what these workers do so that it can consider the implications of any changes to policy.”     

Imelda Staunton said:  “As an actor, I’ve always been a freelancer - it’s just how the theatre and film industries work. We’re so good at being creative in this country; it’s encouraging to see a report for all of the creative industries that takes the role played by freelancers seriously and suggests ways to address the more difficult aspects of being self-employed. 

“The government, with this report, will be able to understand what this profession, what the creative industries, are about and what it needs to be the very best it can be. I hope the government takes this report home and reads it very carefully.”

Creative industries minister Matt Hancock said: "The Federation's Creative Freelancers report provides a valuable explanation of the way freelancers work and the huge contribution they make to the UK's creative industries. The report will make an important contribution to our understanding of the creative industries labour market and we will ensure these recommendations are considered as part of our ongoing work on the Industrial Strategy and early sector deal for the Creative Industries."

Kevin Brennan, shadow culture minister said: “Nearly half of those working in the creative industries are freelancers so it is important that there is a policy framework that supports their rights at work. This report considers the issues that creative freelancers themselves say need addressing, and the government should look closely at its recommendations.”

Notes to editors:
Creative freelancers and organisations that use them backed the move for action to support their professional colleagues.    

Please see this document for supportive quotes from:

  • Lisa Burger, executive director of the National Theatre                    
  • Samuel West, actor and director
  • The writer AL Kennedy
  • Stephen Frears, director of films including The Queen and Philomena
  • Sophie Kinsella, author of the Shopaholic series of novels






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