RESEARCH
Labour rights of ancillary workers in UK TV production

In 2019/2020, the Forum commissioned research into human rights in TV production, with a particular focus on identifying the adverse impacts on the labour rights of ancillary workers.

 

Ancillary workers are people providing essential services to TV productions but who are often not seen as part of the crew. They are usually employed by a subcontractor or supplier, which has historically led to minimal oversight and/or a lack of clarity on working conditions.

This research project focused on the labour rights of ancillary workers in TV production, including set construction workers, stagehands and people working in facilities, catering, cleaning, security and transport. The productions involved in the assessments all operated to high standards, demonstrating good practices above and beyond the legal minimum.

Overall, the research concluded that:

  • Potential indicators of modern slavery are fundamental to the TV production industry but do not seem to manifest in systemic hidden labour exploitation in the UK.

  • However, there are a range of other labour rights issues experienced by ancillary workers:
     

  • Long working hours

  • Safety issues

  • Mental health

  • Precarious employment

  • Bullying and harassment

  • Fear of speaking out

  • Despite the challenges, many ancillary workers reported high levels of job satisfaction and reported good communications among those on set.

The main recommendation is to identify ways to support a cultural shift that invites all those on set or making decisions that affect productions to consider how their actions impact on others. Such a shift is likely to take time but will ultimately be more sustainable than focusing on better due diligence processes alone.

The research also identified a range of steps that broadcasters, productions and industry suppliers can take to improve the situation for ancillary workers.

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