In the past, when the BBC engaged a writer, they could choose to have pension contributions deducted from their fee and paid to the BBC Pension Fund or, if they were members of the Writers Guild of Great Britain, to the Writers Guild Pension Fund. Some years ago the BBC stopped allowing new non-employed writers to be part of its Pension Fund, meaning that by default the pension contribution was no longer accessible to non-WGGB members.
On 1 June 2020 the BBC, in response to campaigning by the Society of Authors on behalf of its scriptwriter members – in collaboration with the Personal Managers Association and the Association of Authors’ Agents – introduced the LifePlan Master Trust scheme. The scheme is administered by Aviva and open to all writers regardless of their union affiliation.
The benefit, which represents a valuable and significant uplift to a writer’s fee, means that a writer will be able to unlock a 7.5% contribution from the BBC when they choose to divert 5% of their fee into the Fund.
For example, an established writer commissioned to write an original radio drama for Radio 4 for the 45 minute afternoon drama slot at the minimum rate can opt to pay £136.80 (5% of 45 X 1 TX fee) from their fee into the fund, releasing a further contribution from the BBC of £205.20 (7.5% of 45 X 1 TX fee), to give a total pension contribution of £342.00.
A television writer commissioned for a 60-minute teleplay on a primary channel at the minimum rate will be able invest a total contribution of £1,552.5 into the scheme – their own 5% contribution of £621 plus the 7.5% top-up £931.50 from the BBC.
Under the new arrangements, contributions will be automatically invested in Aviva’s My Future investment programme. However, once an initial contribution has been made, other funds in Aviva’s wide portfolio will be available for selection.
An annual management charge of 0.25% per year based on the value of the pension savings will be payable, bringing the total cost of the default investment option (My Future) to 0.28%. Any additional investment options selected may incur additional fees. These fees are competitive alongside those levied by most pension schemes.
Any writers wishing to join the LifePlan Master Trust for contributions should indicate this on the Deal Memo that you submit to the BBC’s Commercial Rights & Business Affairs department.
You can contact Aviva directly on 0345 268 3124. Alternatively, should you have any questions for the SoA, please contact Theo Jones, co-secretary of the Scriptwriters Group.