Junior Grades

Real Living Wage

London Living Wage for the Junior Grades of the Art Department branch was a key focus for our work group during the process of finalising the 2020 rate card. We are happy to say London Living Wage has been met for Junior Grades in the 2020 rate card.

Throughout 2019 the BECTU Art Department Branch Committee was working on a new updated rate card to be released at the beginning of 2020. On the previous Art Department Rate Card from 2017, the lower bracket of the rate for Art Department and Set Dec Assistant / Runner across all bands was massively below the 2017 London Living Wage, while the Assistant / Junior Graphic Designer rate on small feature and TV drama was even lower.

While most of us in Junior Grades work group have progressed through our careers receiving rates below real living wage, we do not want people entering the industry to have the same experience. New entrants should not have to financially rely on parents, max out their credit cards or have to hold a second job on top of long working hours in order to get by.

Our goal

The key goal for the Junior Grades work group was to get Junior Grades rates in line with the London Living Wage on all bands of film and TV. We as a work group strongly believe that receiving pay below the real cost of living should not be a norm just because we and the generations before us have been paid that way. Our industry can do better by looking after their employees in a way that directly impacts their abilities to progress in the industry. In our opinion this directly links to the lack of diversity across the industry, as well as creating equal opportunities for all new entrants. While diversity in our industry is a big issue to be tackled, we want to make sure that people's rates are not contributing to people having to leave the industry. Please see more on this at the Equality and Diversity work group page.

What is London Living Wage

The real living wage rates are independently calculated based on what people need to get by. Things such as housing, tax, travel, childcare and benefits are taken into consideration. It's a pay that makes ends meet, as simple as that. As the Art Department branch is a part of the London Production Division of BECTU, we have used the London Living Wage for the rate card calculations. London Living Wage for 2020 is £10.75 per hour.



Why pay it

Due to the freelance nature of our jobs and multiple employers throughout the year, it's not always straight forward taking only the jobs that meet the real living wage. However not only should we hold our employers accountable, but we should also hold ourselves accountable for being treated well and compensated fairly for our time. In a world where the employers' ethical behaviour and social duty is becoming more important than ever, seeing employees treated fairly goes a long way. We would like to see our employers take care of all employees across all grades.

The Junior Grades have historically been working the longest hours, first in and last out, and unfortunately this has created a culture which combined with below real living wage rates has become strongly rooted in our industry and regarded as a norm. This is often not talked about, but the financial worries Junior Grades face without any external financial support can have a huge impact on their mental health. We believe it's not acceptable and paying the real living wage is part of the bigger work than needs doing in our industry.

From junior grades members

"In order to make the ends meet while doing ‘expenses only’ or very low paid jobs during the first year in the industry, I had to rely on a pub job working evenings and weekends. It was exhausting sometimes working 14 days in a row without a break. However giving up part time work, which was my safety blanket, was very hard, because of sometimes long gaps between the jobs and uncertainty about when the next job going to start, while having to pay rent and car related expenses. Over time wages got better and work more regular, but I still remember how tough the first few years were."


"As somebody who moved from Cumbria to London at the age of 30 to pursue a full time freelance career I have found the finances quite difficult to juggle. I left a full time job and living in a part of the UK with low living costs to move somewhere uncertain with the highest living costs in the country. Initially I took a career development loan to complete a 1 year Theatre Design MA in Wimbledon, during which time I was able to continue working remotely part time for the job I left. I was only able to do the MA as I could stay with my mother-in-law in Leyton, a 4 hour round commute each day to the college. Without this piece of luck, moving to London would not have been an option and after studying was not something I could continue to do. My partner relocated to join me and we decided to take on a pub in order to stay south (we lived in and ran a restaurant in Cumbria previously). Whilst this was a risk in terms of being able to take on freelance work it felt like a better option than tying ourselves into extremely high rent with no guaranteed way to pay back. With no network of contacts I began to find a way into the industry and 4 years later I have developed a good network of contacts through which I can find work in the art department mainly on feature films in the low budget bracket and starting to move onto higher budget productions. The income from freelancing does not provide enough financial security alone and without the pub business I would not have been able to continue so although it takes up a chunk of my time and makes juggling short term contracts a bit difficult it is also the thing that enables me to be a part of the industry. I take on other bits of freelance work, writing funding applications for a charity I used to work for and bits of graphic design and theatre design work."