500 firms adopt Tafep guidelines on hiring freelancers

Late payments and contractual disputes are a major concern for self-employed persons such as freelance photographers or producers.

But there is hope that such disputes may be minimised, with close to 500 companies here committing to a set of guidelines on best practices for engaging freelance services, according to Manpower Minister Josephine Teo.

The firms, including media agencies and insurance companies, have adopted the Tripartite Standards for Contracting With Self-employed Persons, which was launched in March last year.

With the standards, firms have to discuss and agree with freelancers on terms of engagement, such as the range of services to be delivered, project timelines and payment schedules, and set them down in writing, before any work starts.

"I find the take-up very encouraging... The pool of self-employed persons that they (the companies) contract with is nearly 30,000 and this is quite considerable," Mrs Teo said last Saturday, during a visit to media agency CreativesAtWork in the One-north district.

The firm is one of the adopters of the tripartite standards.

While freelancers in the media industry are devoted to their creative craft, they are also business people, said Mrs Teo.

ENGAGEMENT IS KEY

If we find that what they declare is not consistent with their actual practice, then our next course of action will be to engage them... Perhaps there is a lack of understanding (of the standards) and we hope that through this process of engagement, they will rectify it.

MANPOWER MINISTER JOSEPHINE TEO, on the steps Tafep will take to ensure that the standards are upheld by companies.

"They have to ensure that they are properly paid, in a timely manner. They have to ensure their commitments and obligations to their clients are properly fulfilled.

"And that means also that there must be clarity of their commitments and obligations, and that is what the tripartite standards seek to do, to promote a way of working which will help to establish these understandings upfront," she added.

This will help prevent disputes, which can potentially take up all of the creative professionals' time and divert attention away from their careers, Mrs Teo said.

Asked how the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep) ensures that firms which adopt the tripartite standards walk the talk, Mrs Teo said Tafep will take in feedback from freelancers and the public on these companies.

"If we find that what they declare is not consistent with their actual practice, then our next course of action will be to engage them... Perhaps there is a lack of understanding (of the standards) and we hope that through this process of engagement, they will rectify it," she said.

Ms Jayce Tham, co-founder of CreativesAtWork, said adopting the tripartite standards gives its freelancers the assurance that the terms and conditions the company offers are fair and progressive.

Ms Lydia Shah, 32, a freelance TV director and producer, said she has to deal with two to three instances of payment disputes every year.

The tripartite standards create a welcome framework and a point of reference for freelancers to discuss with companies what is fair to them, she said.

"At the same time, I would like to see some form of legislation, so companies are held accountable for any errant behaviour," she added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline '500 firms adopt Tafep guidelines on hiring freelancers'. Print Edition | Subscribe