One of the most striking aspects of the COVID pandemic for the cultural sector has been to highlight the value of freelancers – just how dependent organisations are on them, and how unequal the relationship often is.
Over the last 18 months, we’ve been doing a lot of listening to freelancers, through the work of the Freelance Task Force, Freelancers Make Theatre Work and other groups. We’ve also talked directly to the many artists and freelancers we work with, including our Artists of Change who are currently working as part of our staff team.
They generally tell us that ARC is good at employing freelancers, that we’re honest, fair and pay invoices quickly – but we don’t think that’s any reason to be complacent.
We recognised that the term ‘freelancers’ was a broad one, and that as an organisation, we held different types of relationships. Some were ongoing, with regular contracts such as running weekly classes; others were occasional, artists and freelancers we work with on a project-by-project basis, and some were simply one-off opportunities. We also work with a huge network of freelancers through our Associate Artists, where we often aren’t the direct contact.
We committed to developing a policy around employing freelancers, and to have this in place by March 2022.
We started by writing down what we thought the policy should include and shared this with some of the artists and freelancers we have worked with. Thanks to their generous and fantastic feedback, we have developed a full policy that we hope will ensure that freelancers we work with feel safe, confident and valued by ARC.
The policy was shared with our Board (which includes four freelancers), and approved by them, with some with some further useful enhancements. We subsequently planned how to implement it involving all staff who are responsible for employing freelancers at ARC.
We have now published ARC’s first Freelancers Policy which you can see here. Like all our policies, it is a work in progress, which can always be strengthened and improved. We will formally review it annually and will also make changes before then based on the feedback we receive.
We know policies are only useful if they are actually implemented. By making our commitments public, we hope artists and freelancers will be able to hold us to account if we fail to meet these standards.