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Eclipse Theatre set for employment tribunal over ‘exploitative’ freelance contract

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Eclipse Theatre is being taken to an employment tribunal by a former contractor who is accusing the company of being “exploitative” of freelances.

The claimant, writer and cultural producer Chardine Taylor-Stone, started working for the Sheffield-based theatre company in July 2018 and resigned in June this year.

During that time she worked three and a half days a week in the role of ‘enabler’ for Eclipse’s Slate programme, which supports black artists.

Taylor-Stone said she was on a self-employed contract with the organisation, but claims her responsibilities in the role were more akin to that of a permanent employee, arguing that the contract was “exploitative”.

Union Unite has said it is “strongly supporting” Taylor-Stone’s claim. A spokesman said the case raised “important issues relating to bogus self-employment”.

In her resignation letter to Eclipse, Taylor-Stone said: “The enabler contract states that we are ‘self-employed’ contractors. However, the role in reality does not function in this manner.

“There is a feeling of having to be on call and available at all times, even though this was a role that was meant to be flexible for individuals who are already creative practitioners.

“I have since been advised that our contracts are far too prescriptive to be described as self-employed and that there are issues in that a number of clauses appear to define us as workers rather than freelance contractors.”

She added: “Furthermore, the contract leaves Eclipse workers in an extremely vulnerable and precarious position.”

In her claim to the employment tribunal, Taylor-Stone accuses Eclipse of failing to pay any of her annual leave entitlement for the duration of her employment and failing to “provide statement of employment particulars” – in this case holiday pay.

The claim is seeking compensation and declaration for both of these matters.

A statement from Mark Jessop, a regional officer at Unite, said: “We can confirm that Unite is strongly supporting Chardine Taylor-Stone in her claim to the employment tribunal.

“This case raises some important issues relating to bogus self-employment that Unite, as a campaigning trade union, is always keen to highlight.”

A statement from Eclipse Theatre said: “The Eclipse Theatre board and team are aware of the employment tribunal and working with our legal team through the process.”

The employment tribunal is due to be held in Sheffield on November 19.

Eclipse Theatre: the UK company leading a black theatre movement across Europe

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