Concerns have arisen among TV and film freelancers that many will not qualify for any of the help offered to workers by government during the coronavirus crisis.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced yesterday that freelancers and the self employed will be able to claim 80% of their monthly wages up to a limit of £2.5k a month from the government to make up the shortfall in their income.
Similar help was offered earlier in the week to cover the wages of employees of companies who might otherwise be made redundant by those companies. Employers can claim 80% of their employees’ salaries from the state until they are able to pay them fully again.
However, many workers in the film and TV (both junior and senior) work on short fixed-term PAYE contracts. In effect, they are ‘employees’ rather than freelancers but are only employees during the length of their contracts. Government rules state that ‘employees’ have to have been on a company’s payroll on the 28th February for a company to ‘furlough’ them.
Essentially, if a PAYE freelancer’s contract finished on 27th February, or their next contract was cancelled due to the Coronavirus shutdown, they are not ‘employees’ and so cannot be furloughed and also cannot claim freelancer relief.
Freelance AP Peter Mills says: “As someone who works from short term contract to short term contract I have little chance of convincing a previous employer to pretend I’m ‘furloughed’.
Therefore I have fallen between the cracks, between one scheme that pays 80% of your earnings and the other one.
I am far from alone. There must be hundreds if not thousands of people in my position: researchers, assistant producers, runners, production secretaries, production coordinators, even some more senior people that have chosen to be PAYE (for example to find it easier to get a mortgage).”