Freelance fees for interpreting engagements for BSL/English interpreters
7 July 2020 – 5 April 2021
Freelance fees guide for fully qualified interpreters (RSLI) and trainee interpreters (TSLI) or equivalent:
Please note: the figures are provided as guidance only to the fees that NUBSLI members are likely to charge and apply to work carried out remotely or in person.
BSL/English interpreters generally work in half or full day sessions. However, at the interpreter’s discretion, a ‘short duration’ fee may be charged if an assignment is local to the interpreter and/or short in duration.
|East of England||RSLI/TSLI|
|Yorkshire & Humber||RSLI/TSLI|
During the Covid-19 pandemic there will undoubtedly be an increased demand for interpreter provision using video relay services. This is an area of specialist work that requires appropriate skills, knowledge and experience and should be remunerated accordingly.
Therefore, the fees guidance provided continues to apply to interpreters working in these settings.
Specialist work may incur a higher fee. This includes any assignment which requires additional training, specific expertise and/or a substantial amount of preparation. For examples of what this might include see our Specialist work tab.
Due to the physical and mental demands of interpreting, more than one interpreter may be required for an assignment. The reasons for this are varied, but include the duration and/or intensity of the work involved and to ensure accuracy and quality of interpreting are maintained. Examples of where this might be the case are when interpreting for conferences, in the courtroom and mental health tribunals to name a few. Interpreters will discuss your requirements and advise you accordingly at the time of booking.
Evening and weekend rates
Interpreting during evening hours, at weekends, or on public holidays may be charged at a higher rate at the interpreter’s discretion.
BSL/English interpreters reserve the right to decline to be filmed or otherwise recorded whilst working (except when such recording is inherent within legal proceedings). Consent to recordings intended for broadcast or publication should be sought from the interpreter(s) in advance. Such recordings are likely to incur an additional fee.
0 – 7 days prior to date of assignment: 100% of agreed fee
8 – 14 days prior to date of assignment: 50% of agreed fee
Travel and accommodation expenses
Travel expenses will be paid to cover travel to and from the assignment, and for any travel required as part of the booking. Interpreters may quote a fee inclusive of travel otherwise this will be charged at £0.45 per mile for travel by car, or at standard fare rate for public transport.
When an assignment requires an overnight stay, reasonable accommodation expenses will be charged. Interpreters reserve the right to charge for travel time.
Terms of payment
Payment to be made in full within 30 days of receipt of invoice. After 30 days, charges will be applied (at the interpreter’s discretion) as per Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998.
Interpreting assignments of a legal nature or those with higher possible risk implications are not suitable for trainees to undertake. The types of domain this could include are: court, law, police, mental health, child protection, medical, conferences and any work involving the signature of any legal documentation (this is not an exhaustive list).
Further to this, trainee interpreters are regulated and supervised so it is advisable to discuss the details and potential complexity of an assignment with individual trainee interpreters to afford them the opportunity to discuss the assignment with their supervisor prior to accepting a booking.
Interpreters working in the settings listed below (not an exhaustive list) are likely to charge more than the fees guidance stated to reflect the skill, experience and responsibility of working in those domains.
This is a specialist area and qualified interpreters who hold relevant experience and additional training to work in this domain should be used. In some circumstances two interpreters and Deaf intermediaries may be required. A booking should include sufficient time to brief the interpreter(s).
Higher fees to those in the NUBSLI guidance may be incurred for the skilled professionals working in this domain.
Those working in this domain are qualified registered interpreters, who will have received additional training and are experienced. The fees for working with such highly skilled interpreters may be higher to reflect this.
Bookings should ensure sufficient time to include pre and post assignment briefings with interpreters. Ensure that enough interpreters are booked to include both interpretation in court and for outside court consultation.
Bookings should be made for a half or a full day to allow for occasions when court may overrun.
Interpreters working within mental health are qualified, experienced and will have received additional training in this domain. BSL/English interpreters may also work alongside Deaf interpreters.
When booking an interpreter ensure that you have scheduled time to prepare the interpreter(s) and brief them pre and post booking.
Interpreters working in this domain will be experienced and have received additional specialist training. Fees are likely to be higher than the fees guidance stated to reflect the preparation time required in advance of the performance and that these may occur during the evenings and at weekends.
Preparation will likely include, but is not limited to, reading scripts and researching characters and plots, viewing live or recorded performances, learning and understanding song lyrics and attending rehearsals.
These factors should be discussed with interpreters well in advance of the performance.
Fees for conferences may be more than those stated in the fees guidance due to the amount of preparation involved and the high demands of working in this setting.
Those booking interpreters for conferences should ensure preparation is provided in advance. This might include:
- Agenda/running order of the day
- Speaker list and copies of presentations
- Links to videos used during the day
Conferences may require a team of interpreters, especially if the day includes networking, plenary and breakout workshops. You should discuss this with the interpreters before confirming a booking.
If you are planning on recording or live streaming the event you must inform the interpreters in advance and agree consent.
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 fees guidance was 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 work in. Members’ responses were used to inform the updated fees guidance.
How did you settle on the figures?
NUBSLI members were consulted on short duration, half day and full day fees based on the regions they 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 would still be subject to the reduced terms and rates of pay.
I sometimes charge less for short jobs or local assignments. Should I charge more to match the half day fee?
A short duration 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 and so quality cannot be guaranteed.
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/English interpreters will consider leaving the profession (some have already left and made the 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.
Why has the fee guidance gone up in some regions but not mine?
NUBSLI conducts a full review of the fees guidance every three years, the most recent document was updated in July 2020 and in 2017 prior to that.
NUBSLI surveys members and calculates the average (mean) figures for each region, if more members give a higher fee in their survey response for a particular region the fees will increase. Unfortunately some regions have few members and so the fees are less likely to change in those areas.