BBC stars forced out of freelancing, face pay cut

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Stars at the BBC could be forced to take pay cuts and are facing an end to their freelancing careers.

Following criticism that the broadcasting giant employs too many people through personal service companies, the BBC is working to get talent like Jeremy Paxman and Fiona Bruce onto the payroll, the Telegraph reported.

In return for employee benefits, such as holiday pay and pension contributions, self-employed freelancers at the broadcasting agency are facing pay cuts of up to 25 per cent.

However, the agents of the contractors affected by the change in policy are challenging the terms of the offer, telling the newspaper that they "will not take this lying down".

The move of freelancers onto staff contracts began at the end of 2013, after MPs accused the BBC of paying too many through personal service companies.

A starting point for negotiation is a 13 per cent pay cut if presenters agree to become employees with only the statutory minimum conditions. For enhanced BBC terms, a 25 per cent pay cut is being demanded, the Telegraph revealed.

An agent representing several BBC stars told the newspaper: "The BBC’s angle is that it has all got to be cost-neutral to them. Our angle as agents is that it’s got to be cost-neutral to the client – that is where they are going to hit an impasse.

"A lot of us agents are getting together to present a united front. One thing that we are agreed on is we are not taking this lying down on behalf of our clients."

In 2012, a review by Deloitte showed 96 stars were paid over £50,000 per annum through service companies. The majority were believed to be newsreaders and current affairs presenters.

As contracts come up for renewal, the BBC will assess whether the individual in question should be reclassified as an employee, the newspaper explained. This will be based on a test that looks at how much editorial control the broadcaster has over their activities.

In November, the PCG, a trade association for freelancers, also aired its concern over the BBC's plans to move stars onto employee contracts.

"If there are concerns about tax, it is the tax system that should be reformed, not the way these experts are working," the body said in a statement. "Rather than taking the retrograde step of pushing back against these vibrant, successful and rewarding working practices, the government should be embracing it."

It is estimated that around 3,200 workers at the BBC currently operate as freelancers and are paid using a personal service company.

By Victoria McDonnell

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