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A cross-parliamentary committee has called for the government to appoint a ‘freelance commissioner’ to champion the rights of self-employed workers in the creative industries.

The suggestion is set out in the All-Party Parliamentary Group’s wide-ranging Creative Majority report, which aims to establish a pathway for policymakers and practitioners to make the creative industries fairer and more inclusive by tackling structural issues and areas such as diversity of hiring and commissioning, mental health, equal pay and working parents.

The committee – set up in 2019 by Ed Vaizey MP and advised on by diversity consultant Joanna Abeyie – said the government should consider appointing a freelance commissioner. The role’s remit would be to improve the national data collection on the various types and structures of self-employment in a bid to give freelancers better access to employment resources and benefits, such as sick pay and parental leave.

The commissioner would also examine whether creative sector workforces ‘overly rely upon’ freelancers. The role was first suggested by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre.

Organisations can do their bit, the committee states, by creating and funding employee resource groups and freelancer networks, as a “forum for marginalised groups”.

“Lived experiences of discrimination are still marginalised in many creative and cultural sectors,” it states. “Better understanding of how to dismantle barriers and stop discrimination needs organisations and businesses to resource ways of listening to the workforce.

The report calls for freelancers to be included within all organisations’ creative diversity monitoring and targets.

“No matter what the size of an organisation, from the BBC or Netflix through to the smallest microbusinesses in publishing, music, gaming or theatre, being ambitious about diversity is crucial,” it states. “In this context, target setting is vital for organisations, as is reporting on progress and responses to failure.”

Among a string of case studies, the committee highlights the work of theatre company Frozen Light, which has a seat on its board for a freelancer.

The committee groups its broader recommendations into ‘the five A’s’ that act as its guiding principles:

  • Ambition (top-level engagement)
  • Allyship (mentoring and culture change)
  • Accessibility (parents/carers and entry-level recruitment)
  • Adaptability (diversity of recruitment)
  • Accountability (mental health, equal pay, alliances)

The Creative Majority report builds on 18 months of research, including a string of roundtables featuring the likes of BBC head of creative diversity Miranda Wayland, ScreenSkills chief executive Seetha Kumar, Sky director of policy Adam Kinsley and BFI head of inclusion Jen Smith.

It includes a case study from NBC Universal and also draws on existing research such as the Film and TV Charity’s Looking Glass survey into mental health and the Lenny Henry Institute’s manifesto Access All Areas: The Diversity Manifesto for TV and Beyond London.

The full 196-page report can be read here

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