A survey by film and TV union Bectu has found that 71% of freelancers working in the creative industries are afraid they won’t be able to pay their bills because of the work they have lost due to coronavirus.

The survey was responded to by 5,600 people.

Nearly 3,000 (46%) respondents had already lost money as a result of the virus.

From 1,500 respondents who answered the survey in detail, 456 reported already losing over £5,000, 457 reported losing £2,000-£5,000 and 591 said they had lost up to £2000.

Many reported that estimates for future loss of earnings were difficult because of the uncertainty about the length of potential disruption. However, 131 people said they were facing losing over £40,000, 437 said they could lose £20,000-40,000 and 783 people said they may lose up to £20,000.

83% of those who took part reported themselves as freelancers working across TV, film, live tours, theatres, art galleries and art studios.

Film and TV crew highlighted that they need sick pay to cover periods of self-isolation. 50% of those working on major films, 46% of those working in TV drama and 40% of those working in factual TV asked for Bectu to lobby on this point.

Bectu is calling for the government to take immediate action to create a meaningful safety with measures including direct financial support for freelance and self-employed workers delivered in the form of a retroactive tax rebate; deferment of the 31st July tax deadline and VAT deadline on 7 May, alongside the announced delay of IR35; rent holidays alongside the announced mortgage holidays; interest free loans and measures to eliminate or supress credit card interest to prevent debt spirals; drastic simplification of Universal Credit application processes.

Head of Bectu Philippa Childs said: “Bectu can’t emphasise enough how urgently we need the government to act. This survey started just after the Budget announcement. We have since had another update from the Chancellor but still nothing for freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero hours contracts.

“These people have literally seen their income stream disappear in the space of a few days. They pay their taxes without fail, contribute to a thriving sector of the economy and don’t have the structure of an employer.

“The government can’t ignore them any longer. Just like those who are employed and receive salaries, freelancers also have families to feed and must pay the bills to keep a roof over their heads.

“The government must make sure any further protections put in place cover the entire economy’s workforce.”

Jon Creamer