Monday, 22 April 2013

Contractual obligations when working in the media industry

There are many different types of employment contract that employees in the media industry should be aware of. Each contract type comes with different obligations and benefits.  A full time permanent contract means a person is employed as a regular member of staff, usually for 38-40 hours a week, often office hours. These jobs will often be salaried and there are many benefits that come with this type of contract such as a regular income, sick pay, holiday entitlement and maternity or paternity leave. Part time contracts are similar but the employee only works a fraction of what a full time employee will work.

Freelance and fixed term contracts are far more common in the media industry, especially for technical and creative roles such as camera operators and sound technicians. These contracts are temporary and unlikely to come with the same benefits as full time contracts. Another common type of payment in the media industry is called on completion. This is when a contract states that a person only gets paid when the piece of work they have been employed to work on is completed.  

In the media industry, contracts may also have confidentiality and exclusivity terms written into them. A confidentiality agreement will insist by law that the employee is not allowed to explain or disseminate any information about the production of the television show or film until a certain date or further notice. This means that names, plot or the employee’s involvement cannot legally be mentioned in writing or other recorded means. This is vital in maintaining secrecy on media productions.

Exclusivity on the other hand is a term used in contracts to ensure by law that an employee only works with one company to the exclusion of all others, particularly competitors. Payment can be suspended and employment terminated if someone breaks their exclusivity agreement by working with a competitor or other company during the period of employment covered by the contract.

For example any workers on a big Hollywood production that demands high secrecy would have to sign a confidentiality agreement in their contract so they could not reveal plot details to the press. Similarly if they are involved in for example visual effects work, their work would have to be exclusive to that production and they could not use their skills on a production that will be competing with the film they are working on if there is an exclusivity clause in their contract.