Earlier this week, CovBrands blogged about prospective changes to New York law, which would give increased protection to models under the age of 18.

In the UK, young models are protected by regulations that apply to child performers under age 16. The regulations require a special licence to hire a child to participate in any performance, including a modelling shoot or catwalk show.  The conditions for granting a licence include:

  • the licensing authority is satisfied that the child’s education won’t suffer,
  • the child has a responsible guardian at all times,
  • the child won’t work more than a maximum number of hours per week,
  • there is a limit on the number of daily rehearsals and performances.

In addition, models working in the UK are entitled to the general protections benefiting all workers, which include, among other things, a maximum working week, minimum hourly rates of pay, paid holidays, paid time off for sick and family leave and protection against unfair dismissal.

However, some individuals and organisations in the fashion industry feel that models need additional protection, due to their highly unusual working conditions. For example, most employees don’t have to worry about detailed scrutiny of their bodies, or being asked to wear sheer clothing or go nude at work. 

Last year Equity, the trade union representing professionals in performing arts and other creative industries, launched a campaign asking major retailers to sign up to a new 10 point code aimed at improving the working conditions of models.

Kristin Mie Hamada of Equity told CovBrands:

The modelling industry is rife with exploitation and the purpose of the code is to secure the very minimum terms and conditions for people who work in these unusual conditions. It addresses 10 areas that Equity models identified as problematic for the model community as a whole. The 10 point code of conduct is significant because it is the first time that models are saying, ‘we deserve respect, fairness, and dignity in our workplaces.’ The modelling industry is not as glamorous as it looks; models are now fighting back to get minimum conditions in place, in the future models will be asking for more.

The code, which applies to models on photo shoots in studios and on location, contains the following protections:

  1. Minimum working hours and breaks during photo shoots.
  2. Provision of meals and beverages.
  3. Travel and transport provided or reimbursed outside a certain radius.
  4. All necessary steps taken to ensure protection of safety, health, wellbeing and dignity.
  5. Long lasting changes to appearance cannot be made without the model’s consent at the time of the photo shoot.
  6. Any requirement for nudity/semi nudity must be fully explained in advance and personally approved by the model before a shoot.
  7. A private changing area and adequate bathroom facilities must be provided.
  8. Every effort must be taken to ensure working conditions are as comfortable as possible and to ensure temperatures are regulated.
  9. Models must be provided with appropriate insurance cover and receive prompt payment in accordance with the agreed payment terms.
  10. Models under 16 years of age must not be used in photo shoots representing adult models, will not be required to go nude/semi-nude and must be chaperoned throughout the shoot.

Several high profile players in the fashion industry have already signed up to the Code, including British Vogue, Grazia, Next Retail Limited and Debenhams.   In addition, all London Fashion Week models work under an Equity negotiated agreement.

The proposed new law in New York and the success of Equity’s campaign in the UK show there is strong support to improve working conditions for models on both sides of the Atlantic.  CovBrands will continue to track this developing area, so that we can help you stay on top of your obligations when working with models.