Interpreter fees faqs

Why do we need fees guidance?

The introduction of framework agreements, such as the Crown Commercial Services (CCS) framework for interpreting and translation, the NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), and others across the country are having a direct impact on interpreters’ pay and conditions and are jeopardising the future of our profession.

This is happening because some agencies are cutting the fees paid to interpreters to levels that are unsustainable. In response to this, NUBSLI’s fee guidance has been created to educate those who book our services on the fees that interpreters are likely to charge to ensure the future of our profession and the Deaf community’s access to qualified interpreters.

How was the current fees guidance document constructed?

NUBSLI used surveys and consulted its members in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England on the fees they charge in the areas they live and/or work in. Members’ responses were used to inform the updated fees guidance.

How did you settle on the figures?

NUBSLI members were consulted on call out, half day and full day fees based on the regions they live and/or work in. By looking at averages across regions we produced guidance that can be used to avoid the erosion of our pay, terms & conditions. The fees produced are provided as guidance only and individual interpreters should be consulted before a booking is confirmed.

I am not a NUBSLI member. Should I follow the Union’s fee guidance or can I reduce mine?

The more interpreters that follow the guidance on fees the more likely it will be that fees will be upheld for all interpreters and the more likely that we will be paid appropriately for our work.

Whether you are a Union member or not, you will still be subject to the reduced terms and rates of pay which the future holds. Hourly rates of less than £20, no reimbursements of travel cost, and lack of co-worker provision have all been mooted.

I sometimes charge less for short jobs or local assignments. Should I charge more to match the half day fee?

Following the survey results, a call out fee has been included. This fee reflects the assignment duration and location in relation to the interpreter. It is always best to check with an interpreter first to confirm how much they will charge for a booking.

I already have my own terms and conditions, why do I need this document?

The guidance on fees is not intended to replace any terms and conditions documents that individual interpreters may have but may inform an interpreter’s own terms and conditions.

I am a trainee interpreter. Should I follow these fees?

Fee guidance for trainee interpreters is included in the guidance.

If you are a trainee interpreter, or even an interpreter who has been working for some time, you should read our guide to working as a freelance interpreter, which contains a lot of valuable information on working as a self-employed interpreter.

Why isn’t travel time or expenses included?

This document relates to fees only. We recommend that interpreters have their travel set out in their own Terms & Conditions.

I am Deaf. If interpreters insist on these fees I may not be able to get an interpreter. Why are NUBSLI doing this?

NUBSLI is taking this step as a direct response to the threats to the future of the BSL interpreting and translation profession. If pay rates and terms continue to be undermined the service to Deaf people will suffer as a result. The use of untrained and unqualified ‘signers’ is likely to increase as the cheaper option. They will not be registered.

Trained and qualified interpreters have invested large amounts of money and time to attain their qualified status. They need to earn a fair amount in order to pay for the ongoing costs of CPD (continued professional development) to maintain their skills as reflective practice professionals.

If we take no action, BSL interpreters will consider leaving the profession (some have already left and made decision to re-train in another career, which has been highlighted in our working conditions report over the past two years), to earn a sustainable income elsewhere. In addition, the profession will attract fewer new trainees, due to the huge expense to become qualified without the prospect of a reasonable income.

Taking this action may mean that sourcing an appropriately trained interpreter is difficult for a while. However, in the long-term, our aim is to make sure that Deaf people have access to qualified and skilled professionals.

I am an experienced interpreter. If these fees become the standard will I be able to charge more?

Experienced interpreters and those working in specialist settings will be able to charge more to reflect the higher levels of quality and experience they bring.

The most important aspect of this work is that interpreters protect the level of pay they require to live on and that remuneration does not fall to unsustainable levels.

Do other professions and workers have standard pay rates or guidance on fees?

Yes. Examples of professions who have set standard pay rates or guidance on minimum fees include the National Union of Journalists, The Association of Professional Tour Guides, BECTU (Media and Entertainment), Equity, The Musicians Union, and NASUWT (the largest teachers’ union). These are but a few of the organisations who have done this type of work.