Nearly half of freelances in the creative industries on the Pay as You Earn system fear they will not qualify for government support for loss of earnings due to coronavirus, a new survey has revealed.
As part of its coronavirus job retention scheme, the government announced that businesses can claim up to 80% of wages for employees who are put on paid leave – called furloughing – due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The scheme covers full-time and part-time employees, as well as those on flexible or zero-hours contracts
According to the survey of 1,900 PAYE freelances in the creative industries, carried out by BECTU, 47% of respondents were not employed on March 1 and do not expect to be eligible for support through the retention scheme.
The survey also found 23% believed that their most recent employer could furlough them but would not do so, and only 2% had been furloughed.
The findings come as BECTU is urging organisations to take advantage of the coronavirus job retention scheme, and is calling on the government to update its guidelines on the scheme to capture those who weren’t employed at that time.
Head of BECTU Philippa Childs said: “BECTU is aware that there are many gaps in government provisions for de facto freelances 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 February 28 are covered.”
Childs added: “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 February 28 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.”
A spokeswoman for the Treasury said: “Our coronavirus job retention scheme is protecting thousands of jobs up and down the UK – with the government covering 80% of the salary of furloughed workers.
“Firms can re-employ staff made redundant after March 1 and those who do not qualify will be able to access a range of other support – including an increase in the Universal Credit allowance, income tax deferrals, £1 billion more support for renters and access to three-month mortgage holidays.”