We understand everything that is happening right now is scary and all the information that is coming in thick and fast is confusing. We hope the below will help to ease some of your anxiety and confusion. We will try our hardest to keep all the information up to date but please bear with us as its constantly changing.
All information on this page is correct at the time it was published. Information and advice is changing by the minute and we will work our hardest to keep it updated as quick as possible.
Any questions, advice or suggestions please do email email@example.com
UPDATE: The window for the Job Retention Scheme and being furloughed has been extended. If you were on an employer’s PAYE payroll before or on 19 March 2020, you can now be furloughed. If you were employed and on the employers payroll on or before 28th February 2020 and were made redundant or stopped working prior to 19th March 2020, you can also qualify for the scheme if your employer re-employs you and puts you on furlough
Q&A with Tony Lennon
Tony Lennon, Bectu freelance and research officer, took part in a Q&A on Friday 3rd April 2020, explaining the financial support available to freelancers at this time and how to access it. You can access the recording here
Self Employed Income Support Scheme
The government issued the new Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). This will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month over the next 3 months – this may be extended if needed.
- 3 year mean average of your profits up to 2018/19 tax year – if you only have 2 or 1 year self assessment tax returns they will use these to achieve an average
- It will be paid in June, if not hopefully sooner. This will be backdated to March.
- You will need to have more than 50% of your earnings as Schedule D if you have a mix of PAYE as well
- you are not eligible if your average profit if over £50.000
- They are not accepting the 2019/20 SA tax return due in April due to possible fraudulent claims
HMRC will be in contact with you if you are eligible for this scheme.
Further information can be found at the following links:
gov.uk website – Self Employed Income Support Scheme
Martin Lewis has also done a little video on Twitter to shed further light – see here
Sadly this scheme isnt applicable to people who only signed up to being self employed since April 6th 2019. This may change and we will keep you updated on this.
Unfortunately trainees, juniors and artists who have been working mainly PAYE are not eligible for the Self Employed Income Support scheme. Bectu have been working hard to find the solution to this big problem. If you were employed under PAYE, as a daily or on a contract, and was on the employers payroll on or before 19th March 2020 then you can contact your last employer/production company and ask them to add you to the Job Retention Scheme and for them to furlough you. If you were employed and on the employers payroll on or before 28th February 2020 and were made redundant or stopped working prior to 19th March 2020, you can also qualify for the scheme if your employer re-employs you and puts you on furlough . You can be furloughed by multiple companies. This is an optional scheme for employers but Bectu have been communicating with production companies and it is looking very positive.
If you haven’t already been contacted by a production company, then you must write to your UPM or Line Producer to request this. You can use this template letter or feel free to write your own. Please do CC in our rep at Bectu at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer not to CC her in, please do send her the reply.
If you don’t have a payslip for the 19th March 2020 or you finished work before this date, you can still contact your last employer and ask them to re-hire you and place you on the Job Retention Scheme. This is a long shot but send them an email and ask. Bectu are currently in discussions with the government to get the above date extended. They are also in constant conversation with the government regarding the nature of our industry and that November to March are normally quiet months so therefore many wont have employers within this time frame. You can use this template letter or feel free to write your own. Please do CC in our rep at Bectu at email@example.com. If you would prefer not to CC her in, please do send her the reply.
If you have tried contacting past employers regarding being added to the Job Retention Scheme and they have turned you down please get in touch. Bectu are working hard to lobby for fair support for everyone and they need to know if this system isn’t working for people so they can present the evidence to the government or to help you by contacting the production company. If you have contacted past employers and have gotten a positive reply, please do let us know as well. Bectu can use this information as encouragement for other productions. Please email our rep at firstname.lastname@example.org with all the information.
Bectu are also pushing for an answer to people who are new to being self employed this tax year of 2019-20. We understand some people were PAYE before registering as self employed this year and that there will be very little chance of joining the Job Retention Scheme with one of those employers. Please hold tight. We are hopeful there will be a solution soon.
A letter was sent out to 100s of production companies about the Job Retention Scheme. Find a link to it here
Unfortunately, artist running as Limited Companies are not eligible for both the Self Employed Income Support Scheme or the Job Retention Scheme . At this moment there are only three options available
- Apply for Universal Credit – Please see below for further details
- Speak to your accountant about furloughing yourself as an employee of your company
- You can consider applying for a Business Interruption Loan – Please see below for further details
We hope most people will be helped out by the schemes above but we are aware that many people feel they have been left out by them. Bectu are fighting very hard to help reach a resolution. We can continue to help fight the good fight to get further help for fellow freelancers including the people sadly left out of the above help. Contact your local MP (find yours here) There is a template letter you can use on the Bectu website that you can use. Take part in any surveys or petitions and keep in contact and up to date with the information and guidance Bectu is sending out on the following social media. Twitter/instagram/facebook and their email updates.
Gaps in employment due to circumstances
If anyone self employed has taken a prolonged period(s) of time off work (unpaid) in the last three years that has significantly affected your net earnings where you will receive below the £2500 cap, due to maternity leave, illness, caring for a sick relative etc, please email email@example.com ASAP. There is a list being put together regarding this issue and being passed to Bectu/Prospect.
The information above was added and correct as of Tuesday 31st March. We will work hard to keep this updated as and when needed.
Further Financial Support
In the mean time you can do the following for financial support. These will not affect your eligibility for the SEISS scheme;
You may be able to apply for Universal Credit and other financial support depending on your circumstances. More information can be found below:
Business Interruption Loan
You may be eligible to apply for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme which will help to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cashflow pressures by seeking additional finance. Please visit The British Business Bank for more information. You will need a business account to apply for one of these loans
The FIlm and TV Charity
The film and TV charity have created the Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund to help support the IK creative community during this time. This is a short term solution for anyone really struggling financial, not a long term solution to loss of earnings. Have a look at their website for more information.
If you are struggling financially, take a look at Citizen’s Advice Bureau for further information on any help you can get.
Bectu understand this is a hard time. Please do let them know how this has affected you financially at thoughtexchange.org
Mortgages, Renter and Energy Bills
Below is a few links regarding new legislation regarding renters, mortgages and energy bills. Also contact your bank to discuss any overdraft and credit card agreements. They may be able to help you at this time.
WHAT IS BECTU DOING TO SUPPORT ITS MEMBERS AT THIS TIME?
Bectu is calling for the government to put into place measures to protect freelancers during this time. Bectu’s lists of demands are:
- Direct support for freelance and self-employed workers. This would most easily be delivered in the form of a retroactive tax rebate.
- Deferment of the 31st July tax deadline and VAT deadline on 7th May, alongside the announced delay of IR35
- Interest-free loans and measures to eliminate or suppress credit card interest to prevent debt spirals
- Drastic simplification of the Universal Credit application process
COVID-19 advice for freelancers working in film and TV
The TV, Film and Commercials industry relies on the goodwill of freelancers and now is a good time to ask for some flexibility from employers wherever possible.
If your production is put on a hiatus:
- Many productions have been paying half pay or full pay for a specific set period of time. This is at productions’ discretion but it is always worth asking your engagers if they will support you financially for as long as possible.
- Check your contract to see what the hiatus clause entails and what your potential entitlement is.
- Keep an open and positive dialogue/communication line going with your heads of department (HODs) and producing teams. The production might start up again soon and working relationships resumed.
- Keep safe and practice government guidelines while you’re away from work. These can be seen in the Helpful Resources links below.
If your production is cancelled:
- If you are working under the Bectu/Pact Major Motion Picture Agreement,BECTU/Pact TV Drama Agreementor Bectu Construction Agreements and are engaged on weekly contracts, you will be entitled to one week’s notice period. You will be paid in full for that 1 week even if you don’t work during that week.
- If you are working on a commercial under the APA agreement you can see what your cancellation rights are in section 7 of the agreement which you can find here: https://bit.ly/2vvH7il
- If you are on any other fixed-term contract, you have the statutory right to a minimum notice period of:
- 1 week if you’ve worked continuously for at least 1 month
- 1 week for each year you’ve worked, if you’ve worked continuously for 2 years or more
- These are the minimum periods. The contract may specify a longer notice period, so first read what your own contract says. Bectu advises members to request a longer notice payment wherever possible.
- If an employer ends a contract without giving the proper notice, you may be able to claim breach of contract.
- If you have a daily contract, unfortunately there are no current laws protecting you.
- Every contract is different so it’s essential you read yours carefully to determine what compensation is available to you.
- If you haven’t got a contract at all, or if you’ve been engaged via an agency, unfortunately you may only be paid for days worked (unless a cancellation fee was put forward and accepted by the engager before accepting the work). Please note that it is the industry norm for most crew (apart from ‘Dailies’) to be paid at least one week’s notice and we urge members who don’t have a contract to request this as a minimum.
Up and coming pencilled or confirmed work
If you have work that is due to start soon…
- Do not accept work without agreed cancellation fees with the engager.
- Bectu recommends the following cancellation fees in line with the organisation London Freelance:
- 1-7 days’ notice 100%
- 8-14 days’ notice 75%
- 15-21 days’ notice 50%
- 22-28 days’ notice 25%
What is Bectu doing to help?
- Representing members to the government and the industry. Working closely with industry stakeholders on:
- – BFI Screen Sector Task-Force (Covid-19)
- British Film Councils Advisory Panel (deals with the economics of inward investment)
- Greater London Authority Round Table: Supporting Freelancers During Coronavirus.
- Lobbying the Treasury to have adequate financial support in place for people who have lost income while working as freelancers or on other precarious work contracts (inc Zero Hours).
- Lobbying the Treasury to provide support for renters.
- Lobbying the Treasury to provide sickness/absence from work payments to freelancers as well as employees.
- Requesting deferment of the 31 July tax deadline, along with lobbying for tax rebates, and retrospective tax rebates for workers who have paid heavy tax bills in recent months. (Note the government has delayed IR35 changes for a year – see http://bit.ly/IR35-delay)
- Encouraging productions to recognise the unique vulnerability of workers on ‘Daily’ contracts and to provide the enhanced cancellation terms that are currently offered under Bectu’s Construction Agreement.
- Gathering info on what productions are doing to support their crews. Any information is valuable to us so please get in touch with Bectu if you know anything.
- Supporting and advising our members on an individual and crew basis.
This crisis has shown just how much the entertainment industries rely upon the goodwill of people who work on very precarious contracts of employment, whether they are freelancers, zero hour contract workers, or employees of companies that are, themselves, commercially vulnerable.
Bectu is also working to develop a long-term response – a New Deal for Freelance and Precarious Workers – to ensure that, in future, the working relationship is less one-sided than it has been shown to be in recent weeks.
This section was updated at 17.00 on Friday 20 March