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National Minimum Wage Regulations and What they mean to Actors…

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    Profile photo of Anonimous

    I read a posting dated 2 July by Graham from London Studio Works – which I believe gives out the wrong information regarding the NMW. I have taken a number of cases, regarding the actor’s right to the NMW.
    Actors are deemed to be ‘workers’ under NMW Regulations. For employment rights, actors are deemed to be ’employed’ and as such pay class 1 National Insurance Contributions. When it comes to Income Tax, Actors are deemed to be Self-Employed. So Actors have ‘dual status’.
    Singers and dancers are regarded as ‘Variety Artists’ and are deemed to be ‘genuinely self-employed’; and therefore have no right to the NMW.
    If an actor agrees to work for less than the NMW and signs a document to that effect; then that document has NO standing in law. You cannot sign away your right to the NMW.
    Is a Student Film Project liable – to pay you the NMW? In most cases the answer is no. If a Production Company offers you work which is unpaid or below the NMW; then in most cases the company is liable, to pay you at least the NMW.
    It depends on the status of those offering you work. A Charitable Organisation, in most, but not all cases would normally be exempt from NMW Regulations. A Production Company could prove they have ‘Charitable Status’; but this is most unlikely.
    If you are in doubt – whether or not you have a right to the NMW; then you should contact the National Minimum Wage Helpline on 0845 6000 678. There is a time limit on claims, if you have left that employment.
    If an Employer offers you food etc and tries to deduct that cost from your wages; that deduction is illegal. If the employer provides accommodation, then only part of that cost can be deducted.
    The current NMW Hourly Rate is £Nil for those under the age of 18, £3.80 for those 18-21 inclusive and £4.50 for those over 21. From 1st October 2004 the rates go up – to £3 for 16-17 year olds, £4.10 those 18-21 inclusive and £4.85 for those over 21.
    If you have any doubts on this issue then contact the NMW Helpline as soon as possible, since it is impossible to give all the details, on all the different circumstances on this web page.
    Remember Actors have a legal right to be paid the National Minimum Wage. Anybody telling you differently; is wrong!

    Profile photo of Anonimous

    Dear Graham,
    Thanks for your response. I have to admit I was horrified – by the advice given by you, in your earlier postings; especially when you said actors did not come within the NMW Regulations; when clearly they do!
    You said a lawyer would not take the case; but it is the Inland Revenue that is responsible for administering National Minimum Wage Regulations. Normally it is the Inland Revenue NMW Inspector, that would pursue a complaint – where a worker was not paid the NMW. The only thing the applicant would need to do -is make a complaint. Then a NMW Inspector would investigate the complaint; and then seek the employers compliance with the terms and conditions of the NMW.
    I took a case on behalf of two young actors, who were placed by an agent to work a 12 hour day for £25. The agent took £5 commission. Not only did the Production Company have to pay the correct NMW; the agent had to refund their commission too!
    The actors had already agreed to work, for below the NMW. But, after they did the work in freezing cold conditions with little or no catering, they contacted me. I then took the issue up with the Inland Revenue NMW section. Both actors were then paid the National Minimum Wage.
    You say you have “a fair and unprejudiced approach” and that “it is important to provide correct information”. You also stated you were “merely raising a topic of debate”. I am sorry I find your postings on this particular subject; very un-helpful and – very misleading. Every employer in this country has to pay their workers at least the National Minimum Wage; no ifs and no butt’s. That does mean Film & TV.
    The whole idea of a NMW is to protect those vulnerable to abuse – of low rates of pay. If a business cannot afford to pay the NMW; then they should not be business. Someone who wants to ‘profit’ purely by paying little or no wages to their actors; is breaking the law…
    The acting profession is full of actors looking for that ‘big break’, which may never happen. Working for little or no wages could be seen – to further their acting career. But in many situations the actor is working for nothing; for no benefit. Too many Production Companies try to exploit the actor, in this situation.
    You may not wish to pay “lots of money”; but you certainly do make a ‘profit’ from the work your studio takes on. Surely the actor has a right to profit too? Employers in the Film & TV industry seem to think they are above the law; they are not.
    The law is qui


    We hope this is helpful for all concerned.
    The Minimum Wage Regulations apply to all forms of employment both full or part time under an employment contract.
    In principle the Minimum Wage Regulations would apply to all acting work undertaken, but this is only in the event of the work being subject to an employment contract.
    Where work is undertaken for personal promotion reasons it can be unpaid, though in the event there is a commercial benefit to the film makers, there may be a future liability that could be implied into a contract in relation to performing rights.
    Extras are essentially background actors who may or may not be used and who do not have performing rights.
    It is very difficult to specify the conditions under which the Minimum Wage Regulations may apply or may not apply because it will depend on the circumstances of each case or acting assignment.
    Essentially it may be necessary to determine a contract in advance in some cases and in others the contract or agreement may be signed after the work has been done. In such case the contract is only validly enforceable on the issues that arose before the work was first undertaken.
    In general, anyone may undertake voluntary employment without a wage. Actors may therefore be paid or unpaid depending on the agreement and the end purpose of the production they are involved in. Thus a dramatical work in performing arts may be solely voluntary in the same way a samba band of musicians may join in procession for the Notting Hill Carnival under an agreement, but at the end of the day, there is no pay.
    If in doubt, one should seek legal advice before undertaking or agreeing to a contract.

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