It’s been heard by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee that hundreds of BBC presenters were forced to form companies so they could be treated as freelancers, leaving many of them with large tax demands.
One Radio 4 presenter said the Corporation had pushed TV and radio presenters into setting up their own personal service companies (PSC) which meant that they were deprived of employment rights such as holiday and sick pay and pension contributions.
Another gave evidence saying they had feared ill-health and being made homeless after the PSC system was scrutinised and many were prosecuted by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Meanwhile, others said they are now facing ruin following demands for back-tax, some of it running into six figures.
As Radio 4 Front Row presenter, Kirsty Lang claimed in her evidence, when she asked to go part-time because of family commitments, she was told she had no choice but to stop being on the staff and to set up a PSC.
She told the Committee that this frightened her because she was afraid of what would happen if she got sick and was worried about her pension. Then, after she did go freelance and her stepdaughter died, she was unable to take time off to mourn, as she needed the pay.
The Committee’s chairman Damian Collins MP said the BBC had fallen “well below” the expected standards of staff treatment. He added that he was “disappointed” that no-one from BBC management had appeared in front of the Committee.
Presenters will now be able to ask for a review of their cases through the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, which will consider whether it is “appropriate and reasonable” for the Corporation to make a contribution towards historic demands for employers’ National Insurance.