U.K. film, TV employees get work helpline


LONDON -- There are times in life where everyone feels the need to reach for the bottle or call a helpline when the pressures of work become too much.

So, for the first time in the U.K., a dedicated helpline for U.K. film and television industry employees has been set up by organization Women in Film and Television.

Billed as a new confidential employment advice website and helpline, the startup service entitled Workline is not just for ladies and is supported by U.K. government-backed training organization Skillset and the U.K. Film Council to the tune of $98,400 a year.

But there is a little catch. Calls to the helpline cost -- despite it being billed as a free, confidential, nationwide service available to employees, employers, full and part-time workers and those who are self-employed alike.

Callers to the helpline are charged at eight pence (15 cents) per minute, and will be asked to leave a message and be called back, organizers said. Queries will be answered within 48 hours wherever possible with the telephone helpline open Monday to Friday.

The creators said the service will be run "by staff who have several years of human resources experience gained within the TV and film industries" with support from employment legal eagles Goodman Derrick.

Advice will cover the full gamut of work-related issues including contract issues, maternity and paternity leave and pay, flexible working hours, statutory disciplinary and dismissal procedures, redundancy pay, jury service, pensions, sickness and statutory sick pay, and equal opportunities questions.

U.K. Film Council chairman Stewart Till, who also sports a Skillset deputy chairman hat, said the plan had been hatched "in response to people in the film and television industry asking for confidential, independent HR advice."

Said Till: "With an industry as rapidly changing as ours, a service such as this is as vital to employers as it is to employees and freelancers. I hope this service will help everyone at some point in their careers."

Skillset director of film Janine Marmot said she hoped the service becomes "an invaluable first port of call for all work related issues."

Calls to the helpline were not answered at press time.