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Bectu calls on production companies to help furlough freelancers

"Production companies who do it will provide a vital lifeline for people so they can eat and pay their bills"

Bectu has invited production companies to work with the union to furlough PAYE crew, after calling on 280 companies to use the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS).

The union asked each production company to:

  • Use the JRS to continue to pay anyone they can
  • Re-engage staff who have been permanently laid off where the JRS permits it
  • Compensate crew hired on daily contracts in line with those on weekly contracts
  • Avoid ending existing contracts during the crisis

The JRS enables workers whose tax and National Insurance is deducted at source by the production company to be re-hired and furloughed by their last engager, provided they were working for them on or before 28th February.

Furloughing allows the employer to claim back 80 per cent of a person’s salary from the government, capped at £2,500 a month, initially for three months.

Bectu also called on production companies to help lobby the government to:

  • Remove the cut-off date so that those engaged after 28th February qualify for the JRS
  • Make JRS funds available sooner
  • Allow crew employed through their own limited companies to have their dividends treated as income under the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which currently only supports sole traders
  • Provide a monthly payment capped at £2,500 for those earning above £50,000 a year under the SEISS, already available to employees qualifying for the JRS

“Many productions are willing to help but they have real concerns about how to do it – especially smaller organisations. The long wait for reimbursement is a big worry,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs. “We are willing to talk through the difficulties with those productions and offer our advice on how to make it work.”

“We know it’s a big ask but despite the flaws, companies will get their money back eventually,” she added. “Production companies who do it will provide a vital lifeline for people so they can eat and pay their bills. They will help keep people safe by enabling them to stay at home and practice social distancing rather desperately seeking potentially risky alternative work. They will lay the groundwork for the industry get back on its feet once this crisis ends.”