Creative Britain 'needs two freelance talent routes'

Two freelancer-only routes into the UK should be provided by the government to the creative industries -- the first for those in the EU, the second for freelancers from outside it.

Issuing this dual recommendation, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) said that of more than 250 creative businesses it polled, a hefty 62% engaged non-British freelancers.

Underlining this heavy reliance on overseas freelancers, more than 70% of the businesses that used non-British self-employed people said they “could not fill” the jobs with UK workers.

So within the EU and once the UK completes its exit from it, the government must “provide a route for freelance talent,” said the CIF, which wants freedom of movement to be retained.

“EU workers, along with workers from elsewhere in the world, must be able to set up in the UK in a freelance capacity,” the federation urged, in its new ‘Global Talent Report.’

If they cannot, then the implied restrictions on non-British freelancers coming to the UK from the EU could be “catastrophic” for the nation’s creative industry, the CIF reportedly believes.

But it is the second talent route into the UK -- for non-EU freelancers -- where the report is more critical. “The visa system does not work for self-employed and freelance workers,” it begins.

“There is no provision for the freelance workers the creative industries depend upon, for example, and it does not accommodate the rapid turnaround of projects in some subsectors.”

Furthermore, it does not address the creative industry’s “requirements around the freelance workforce or skilled -- short of ‘exceptional’ -- talent at the level that many creative businesses would be looking to employ.”

It also operates on far too small a scale; requires significant administration and cost; fits poorly with the way in which most small businesses access talent and, due to curbs on the number of jobs, does not tally with freelancers often taking on multiple assignments at the same time.

In a CIF-organised letter, Labour, SNP, and Liberal Democrat MPs agreed, saying the non-EU immigration system “fails to meet the needs of creative freelancers”.

Their letter adds: “This system will inevitably come under greater pressure after we leave the European Union and its failing will only become more apparent.

“A lack of direction and tangible proposals from government on how this will be improved post-Brexit risks exacerbating these challenges and undermining our reputation as an international centre of culture and creativity.”

So the federation says the government must create a ‘creative freelancer’ visa, a bolt-on to the Tier1 ‘exceptional talent’ visa that would grant non-EU freelancers entry into the UK to work for up to 24 months.

Extendable, and replaceable (with an offer of full-time employment under the employer-sponsored visa system), the visa would only be eligible to those who can “demonstrate a history of work in the sector”.

The freelance creative would also need to produce a “viable plan for acquiring work in the UK,” adds the report, which says the visa already has the backing of six creative industry bodies including those from the film, fashion, technology, crafts and broadcasting sectors.

“We recognise that all visa systems must be resistant to abuse and believe adopting a structure similar to tier 1 will help mitigate against improper use,” the CIF said. “We ask government to consult with us on how to make systems even more rigorous as existing policies are developed and new ones designed.”


Oct 27, 2017
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