We have slavery in our industry

In our work with design agency owners we get a lot of insights into what’s happening in the industry. In a recent meeting with a large agency owner I heard about a competitor who was underbidding because they demanded their staff work until 8 pm to show their commitment.

The analysis of this agency (whom I know a lot about) showed they had an effective 2 extra employees they didn’t pay. This came from the extra few hours everyone had to work.

This is not dedication, it’s modern slavery.

Modern slavery is not so different to the idea that may spring to your mind. It’s characterised by extreme working conditions such as low or no pay, excessively long hours and no recreation days.

Landers & Rogers

It’s about time the industry stood up and made it clear this practice should be stamped out of our profession.

How are you going to do this? Ensure your workplace agreement and job description make it clear you have a 40 hour working week for which you pay a fair wage. See What’s a fair wage for this info.

‘Interns are free labour’

This is the attitude expressed by some design agency owners. This is workplace slavery.

My partner, Carol Mackay, is a Board member for Never Not Creative (NNC) and leads the Internship change group. They have developed a business case showing how an intern can be fee generating and PAID.

Carol has a LinkedIn alert that tells her when a business advertises an internship. She gets at least one alert per day and most are for unpaid internships.

What can you do about this? Read about the NNC internship program and how your support for paid internships by signing the pledge.

Take away

Slavery has long been a part of the design industry. It’s time we stood up and said it’s not on.

Greg Branson

Always happy to talk the business of design – contact me if you would like to learn more.

Design Business Council : business advice for creatives.
We help designers build better, stronger, more sustainable, businesses.

More articles about business models

  1. What every business needs to know about slaver.
  2. Forced labour and long working hours are slavery
  3. Productivity, mental health and profitability.

Design Business Review is Australia’s only online design management magazine. It’s professional development information written specifically for Australian designers by Australian designers. Best of all, it’s free.


Greg Branson

Greg’s passion is the research and development of methods that improve design management and the role of design in business.

Greg has developed The Design Business School to help owners manage their business better along with showing designers how to get more involved in the studio and develop their career path. Contact Greg.

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