NUBSLI releases updated fees guidance

By NUBSLI | Published on 20 May 2024

Related: freelance interpreter
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In 2016 NUBSLI released its first national guidance on fees. At that time interpreters were pressured to reduce their fees and the introduction of framework agreements resulted in agencies cutting fees.

The fee guidance was an important step in fighting back against the downward pressure of fees, terms, and working conditions. By publishing the results of a survey on interpreters’ fees – people booking interpreters get a good idea of what they might need to budget – giving them confidence when contacting interpreters that they are paying people fairly.

We began with the aim of updating the guidance every three to four years. This is due to the large amount of work it takes to carry out a survey of our members, especially since NUBSLI is run entirely on the time given by volunteers.

However, we have found (particularly during the cost of living crisis and periods of high inflation) that the guidance became quickly outdated and no longer reflected the fees being charged.

In 2022, members voted to increase the fees from the 2020 survey with respect to inflation (albeit only 12 months worth rather than ~2.5 years). This decision was taken as a stopgap, allowing a simple poll of members which doesn’t require the work of a full survey.

We aim to continue conducting a full survey of members every three years, and a simple poll on inflation adjustment in the years between. This gives the public a better idea of what interpreters in their area might charge for an assignment. Each review is based on a larger union membership as member numbers have grown year after year between each survey.

How the review was performed

Members were surveyed and asked to provide a fee for short-duration, half-day and full-day bookings for the regions in which they work. The responses are sorted into each region, and separated into Trainee and Registered interpreter fees.  Please note, short-duration fees are not offered by all interpreters.

We take the median fee amount and round up or down to the nearest £5. For example, £278.50 becomes £280.00 and £124.50 becomes £125.00.

Members were also surveyed on the guidance text that accompanies the fees. Members overwhelmingly voted to describe the published figures as applicable to a ‘standard’ assignment – one which is appropriate to be undertaken by a newly qualified interpreter.

We found that defining ‘specialist’ bookings, only as a set list of domains (such as media, performance, court, mental health etc…) was unhelpful, as often in a more general domain the demands of the specific assignment may not be appropriate for a newly qualified professional.

View the updated fees guidance.

NUBSLI reminds those booking the services of BSL/English interpreters that these figures are guidance only, and the median (midpoint) of all the survey responses we receive. You should confirm an interpreter’s fee before booking them.

Misusing the guidance as a ‘cap’ for your budget will exclude interpreters whose fees are above the average – given the national shortage of interpreters, this will increase the odds you will not be able to source an interpreter. These excluded interpreters may well be amongst the most skilled and experienced members of the profession, and so systemically excluding them is likely to impact on the quality of access provided.