Working in a creative industry – such as photography or design – often means going it alone in terms of employment, with the freedom of freelancing usually being part of the appeal in the first instance. However, many workers are probably entitled to more employment rights than they realise, and keeping a sharp eye on employment law helps keep exploitation at bay.
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The situation is exacerbated by the often international elements of a creative’s workload. If you’re hired for a photoshoot in Germany you need to be aware that German employment laws will be in place –this may sound obvious but ask anyone who’s been fined or arrested for jaywalking abroad the importance of learning local legalities. Just as there may be regional laws governing where a photographer can shoot, there might be a local version of the working time directive prohibiting working at certain periods of the day or night in succession.
Getting a good grip on international employment law can help avoid future problems. Although you may not believe you are ’employed’ as a freelancer, that might not be the case; you may be liable for more risks than you might expect, but likewise you might be entitled to greater privileges, such as paid sick leave.
In the design industry finding out where you stand legally in regard to copyright law is often problematic. Many contracts specifically outline who owns the copyright of any work produced, and it might surprise people to realise that this often includes all work produced during a period of employment, not just the work commissioned.
With the ease of setting up your own online business and presence now, novices can quickly find themselves exploited after hastily signing contracts that mean the work on offer isn’t as valuable as it might seem at first glance. Unscrupulous companies trawl social media looking for keen new start-ups to pressurise into signing contracts before they’ve had a proper chance to read through them. Zero hour contracts seem to be hitting the headlines with increasing frequency, and it’s uncertain if many people understand the implications of signing one before they commit.
If nothing else make sure that if you work in a creative industry you brush up on copyright law and if there are any regional restrictions on your work. Also, double check what privileges you’re entitled to, as it might mean that being a freelancer doesn’t have to mean going it entirely alone.