The TV and film industry is “exploiting” workers by making them working 14 hours more per week than the national average, often without overtime, according to a snapshot report from The Time Project.
The first findings of the project, supported by the University of York’s Screen Industries Growth Network, reveal that people in TV are working on average 50 hours a week – or 10 hours per day - way above the national average of 36, or 7.2 hours.
Almost one in five – 18% - of entries were longer than 12 hours and on 21 occasions, participants worked more than 18 hours.
The most extreme example cited was a 23.8 hour working day, though the report does not spell out the remainder of that individual’s working week.
The UK’s working time directive sets a legal limit of a 48-hour working week, though this can be averaged out over 17 weeks. Because people in TV often work short-term contracts and have weeks with no work, many will do an average of less than 48 over that period.
Many TV and Film workers have as standard an opt-out clause waiving the right to a maximum 48 hour week.
One in five said they take no daily break and 45% of the 477 respondents – who collectively logged 73,000 hours anonymously using an app - said their working hours were not stated in their contracts, often due to last-minute verbal agreements.
Of those who had their expected hours spelled out in their contract, these were stuck to only on 14% of days worked. While 31% of their working days were shorter than contracted, they worked longer hours on 55% of days.
Hair and make-up artists are working the longest average hours – 11.8 a day – followed by electricians (11.3), producer/directors and runners (both 10.8) and producers (10.5). Those working in development averaged eight hours.
Bectu head Philippa Childs said: “Over the last two years of the pandemic great TV has kept us entertained, educated and informed but we should not forget that was achieved as a result of the incredible work of freelancers who regularly work unacceptably long hours and at huge personal cost.”
In his foreword to the report, Marcus Ryder urges the industry to do better. “The bottom line is while we might use terms such as “long working hours”, what much of this report is actually detailing is exploitation. And exploitation must never be normalised,” he writes.
Dr Jon Swords, who leads SIGN, added: “Working 10-hour days is not normal outside of TV. And it acts as a barrier to entry and progression for people with other restrictions on their time. This affects carers, parents, those who need time to look after their own mental and physical health, or want a life outside of work.”
The Time Project app was created by Share My Telly Job (SMTJ) and is supported by Bectu, Directors UK and Sara Putt Associates.
SMTJ founder Lousie Patel said the findings are a first step towards taking progressive action towards fixing a “broken” industry. She said she was shocked by the inequality towards overtime reflected in the report.
“It is quite common, for example, to have an editor and an edit producer sitting side by side working a 20 hour shift, and the editor will be getting paid overtime beyond ten hours and the edit producer will not.”