Deregulation Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograp h and Theatre Union (DB 21)

The Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union is the trade union for workers in the media and entertainment industry, with more than 24,000 members in the TV, Radio, Film, Theatre, and Cinema Exhibition sectors. Roughly 50% of our members are self-employed, and the proportion continues to rise as employers of permanent workers seek to casualise their workforces. On behalf of those self-employed members we have a number of concerns about Clause 1 of the Draft Deregulation Bill, which will exempt many of them from a duty to observe health & safety regulations.

1. The Clause goes too far:

The proposed clause goes far beyond the spirit of the original proposal for an exemption from Professor Ragnar Löfstedt in 2011. The professor has spoken widely since then about his recommendation being aimed at self-employed workers carrying out non-hazardous activities in a home office environment. As currently worded, Clause 1 is likely to lead to self-employed workers in many industries being exempted from health and safety regulations.

2. Self-employed workers in entertainment should not be exempted from health and safety regulations.

The entertainment industry, in which the vast majority of BECTU's members work, has been classified by HSE as "low risk", for purposes of pro-active inspections of workplaces, which have now ceased. This classification is expected to inform the decision as to which undertakings are included in the prescribed list which will determine which self-employed workers are exempt from health and safety regulations. We understand that the classification, and therefore the likely health and safety exemption for the self-employed in the sector, was based on a relatively low accident record in the sector.

Our view is that this was a flawed decision for the following reasons:

a) Reporting of accidents in some parts of our industries is notoriously low, with a multitude of small companies operating on the fringes of health and safety rules. There is a mix of employees and self-employed workers in the industry, with roughly half our membership falling into the latter category. Engagements to perform services are gained informally by self-employed workers in the sector, often by word of mouth or via a phone call, and employment is precarious as a result. In these circumstances our members are hesitant to label themselves as "trouble-makers" by raising health and safety concerns, or reporting all but the most serious accidents. Consequently, the real accident rate in the industry is believed to be considerably higher than the rate recorded via official reporting.

b) Where there are reliable statistics, for example fatalities which usually involve the police and are therefore accurately reported, the entertainment industry does not qualify as "safe". Although fatalities in our sector are mercifully rare, the small number that have occurred in the last decade, have all involved self-employed workers according to our analysis, based on the exclusion of those caused by road traffic accidents, stress-related suicides, and warzones. Across the economy self-employed workers are 2.4 times more likely to die at work than employees, according to the latest data.

c) The low accident rate in the entertainment sector is due, in part, to the many responsible employers who have implemented robust systems to manage health and safety in the workplace. The H&S regime has been applied equally to self-employed workers and employees, and the statutory basis of health and safety regulations has helped employers to establish safe working practices among the self-employed, who otherwise might have resisted some of the control measures that have helped keep the accident rate down. Without a statutory requirement, engagers of self-employed workers in our sector will have to negotiate with them over health and safety, rather than simply reminding them that the law applies. This will impose a new burden on companies - the opposite of the Bill's intentions in this respect.

3. BECTU is strongly opposed to the removal of health and safety protection from self-employed workers.

The exemption has not been sought by the workforce or the employers in our sector, and is likely to lead to less stringent application of good practice in the potentially hazardous entertainment industry. In the many situations where self-employed workers are mixed with employees - almost the norm for film and TV production, and increasingly common in live entertainment - employers will face difficulty and confusion managing safety for groups of workers, some of whom are legally-covered by the rules, and some of whom are not.

In the entertainment sector there is a broad range of activities that pose hazards, either to those conducting them, or to others, including working at heights, using hazardous materials, staging physical effects involving combustion and explosives, use of hoists, cherry-pickers, and other lifting equipment, and many more. It seems to BECTU that these should all be regulated by statutory health and safety regulations, and Clause 1 of the Deregulation Bill, as currently worded, is a disastrous step backwards for H&S, in an entertainment industry that depends heavily on self-employed workers, and under current legislation, has successfully kept them safe in the workplace.

March 2014

Prepared 26th March 2014