47% of PAYE freelancers fear they won’t qualify for government support

30 March 2020

A Bectu survey of PAYE freelancers has found that 47% of them were not employed on 1 March and do not expect to be eligible for support through the coronavirus job retention scheme.

The findings come as Bectu urges production companies to furlough people who were on their payroll on 28 February and is calling on the government to update its guidelines on the coronavirus job retention scheme to capture those who weren’t employed at that time.

A Bectu survey filled in by 1,900 PAYE freelancers over the weekend found that 47% were not employed on 1 March and do not expect to be eligible for support through the coronavirus job retention scheme.

It also found 23% believed that their most recent employer could furlough them, but wouldn’t and only 2% had been furloughed.

Thousands of de facto freelancers working across the creative industries are employed contract to contract and are facing financial ruin without access to the government job retention scheme.

Already on board

In film and TV several production companies and broadcasters are furloughing freelancers. These include Warner Bros and HBO, some broadcasters and there are also reports of smaller independent production companies doing the same.

Bectu demands

Bectu is writing to all production companies and urging them to follow the lead of other companies and:

  • Furlough workers using the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • Retain staff where possible and avoid unnecessary contract terminations.
  • Compensate crew hired on daily contracts in line with those who are on weekly contracts, as Warner Bros is doing.

The letter continues: “We must face this pandemic with gusto and ensure that every stakeholder in the industry actively participates in ensuring crew wellbeing during this incredibly difficult time. Those members of crew have been instrumental in the growth and success of the British film industry, and now it’s time you exercise your strength, ability and support of those crew members who are loyal to your productions.”

Treasury must listen

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said:

“Bectu is aware that there are many gaps in government provisions for de-facto freelancers and the self-employed. Many people on fixed-term contracts are looking for clarification and guidance from the government about how they can be furloughed as the coronavirus job retention scheme is currently their only option for financial support.

“Bectu is making representations to the Treasury that it must quickly update its guidelines to ensure that those who weren’t on a company’s payroll on 28 February are covered.

“The Treasury should make it clear that these workers can and should be re-hired and furloughed by their last engager – even if this was before the 28 February cut-off date.

“It also needs to make the funds available for companies that are furloughing before the end of April as well as insisting employers furlough people rather than allowing them the choice.”

Working non-stop for freelancers

Now more than ever, we are stronger together. Bectu will continue to work to ensure a better deal for freelancers and the more members we have, the stronger our voice.
Join Bectu now