Postscript - another writer in the same position, different University, has waited since APRIL for her payment... this is unacceptable, isn't it? Why should writers be treated like this?
If you are reading this, and know of any other instances where Universities use and abuse writers, please let me know. Might as well make a list...with no names mentioned if you'd rather not.
Writers, be aware of the issues that can arise if you agree to a commission.
Back in the summer, I agreed to supply two stories to 'Matter', Sheffield Hallam University's annual anthology of poetry and short stories, written by students on their Masters in Creative Writing Programme, and supported by published writers like me - who were to be paid £150.
Or so I thought. In October, (three months after the commission, delivery and acceptance of the work) I asked about payment. This was prior to the launch of the anthology in London, to which I was invited, and at which I was asked to read. I was asked to bring an invoice, which I did. Yes, I'd read, gladly, launch was held in London Review Bookshop, The Coward's Tale was about to come out, so timing was great.
They didn't offer travel expenses, but I thought - hey, nice event, good people - I'll support. Trainfare, tube, car parking, cost me just over £35.00. OK - I'll pay for that out of my fee. That will leave me with £115 clear. I even bought my own copy of the anthology at the launch - 'Oh we should have given you one of those ... sorry.' which cost some further ££ from the pot. No one suggested giving me my money back...
A few weeks later, having heard nothing, about the fee, I queried via email. The reply came back - Oh sorry, we cant pay you without an electronic invoice."
I zapped one back - slightly niggled - as no one had previously asked for it electronically...
Weeks pass. over a month. Unis often work on a monthly pay system - but no - nothing. So I queried again... and yes, it would be paid soon, it was in the pipeline.
Oh good. Jump up and down in glee at the prospect...Except nothing happened.
I queried again. (Now five months since the commission, delivery and acceptance of the work, and now post-publication, in an anthology they are selling, selling MY WORK... and I bought my own to support... am I feeling VERY silly by now?
So will they pay me this time? Nope - "Oh sorry, the Finance dept outsources payments to Northgate. They need to check your tax status among other things, before they can process the payment..." ie - The payment hadn't even been processed. They were sitting on it, just as they'd sat on it back in October, waiting for me to query again - and again - and again.
I'm afraid I got cross. My husband said weeks ago - "They will string it out until you give up, Ness - querying it will cost you more than the final sum..." and I didn't like to believe that. But now, yup- he was right. The behaviour of the university was simply rude, disrespectful, and I wasnt going to waste my time any more....apart that is from a final timewaster - writing this, to warn writers to get payment UP FRONT in these circumstances. The people with whom I dealt over the anthology, and my stories - the creative people, were really nice. Charming - but they weren't the Finance people, who scatter their emails liberally with indicators of who they'd like to be - FINANCE DIRECTORATE. (Huh? Accounts Dept would do, thanks...) Orwell would love this lot.
I pulled the plug, and lost my payment, which I'd never had anyway, suspect they were trying hard to make me give up ...and which The Directorate can now delete from their system, and pay a minion the same as I should have been paid, for the deletion.
But final laugh, a form arrived from the Directorate just now - for me to fill in - yet more timewasting, and I'd no doubt get something wrong, and have to wait, and not be told until I queried in January. February, March.... They hadn't even clocked that I'd pulled the plug.
Learn from my lack of awareness, and my silly trusting nature. And here is the form... sent 5 months late, from the Sheffield Hallam Finance Directorate, who could not direct a leaf down a stream. Enjoy!
Status Enquiry Form
Your answers should be in respect of the work you are undertaking for Sheffield Hallam University
1 Full Name
2 Nature of Business
3 Full Address & post code
4 Daytime tel number
5 Mobile Number
6 HMRC office and 10 digit ref eg 981/1234567890
7 What is the exact nature of work to be undertaken for the University
8 Name & address of location at which the work is to be done
Who decided this?
9 State the frequency of the work eg
a) hours of attendance
b) Days of attendance
c) Length of contract
10 What is the
rate of pay
frequency of pay
who decided this
provide a sample copy of your invoices to the university
11 Contact name at location or name of individual/team in SHU offering work
12 If written contract or other documentation setting out conditions of engagement please provide a copy
13 How was the contract obtained. Eg tender, advert other (please state)
14 Who decides what work to be done
15 Who issues instruction/guidance on what, where, when and how the work is to be done?
16 is your work checked?
If so by whom
17 Can you be moved from job to job if the universities’ priorities change?
18 are you required to abide by a code of practice or other regulations laid down by SHU?
If so please give details of any handbook or other literature issued (you may be asked for a copy later)
19 Are you entitled to holiday pay, sick pay or other benefits?
20 Are you personally obliged to do the work?
21 is there an obligation to provide someone else to do the work if you are unavailable?
If you are not obliged to send someone else do you have the right to do so?
In reality is it possible to send someone else?
Have you ever sent someone in your place
If so who and when?
Who paid the person at 21d
22 What materials/equipment is necessary for the job?
Who provides these?
23 are any duties performed other than on university premises?
If so what are they?
Where are they performed
What equipment is provided and by whom (at the other location)
24 if while you are undertaking the work you are dismissed can/do you expect a period of notice?
If so how much notice would you expect and vice versa
Is the notice contractual/verbal or understood?
25 Do you have other clients for whom you undertake similar types of work
How many in the last 12 months
26 Do you pay any specific insurance premiums such as public liability insurance?
27 Are you engaged as a teacher or a tutor?
If the answer is yes – continue
If the answer is no go to question 30
28 Do you give instruction on 3 days or more in any 3 month period?
29 Are your duties designed to lead to a certificate, diploma, degree or professional qualification?
30 I certify that the above information supplied by me is correct to the best of my knowledge and belief. Signed Date
Based on the answers provided a decision will be made as to whether PAYE/NIC rules apply
If you require any further information please contact: Northgate Payroll Helpdesk 0870 0668695