The union surveyed 5,600 people and found that 46% of respondents were out of pocket. From 1,500 who replied in detail, 456 said they had lost £5,000 ($5,770), 457 reported losing £2,000-£5,000 ($2,308 – $5,770) and 591 said they had lost up to £2,000 ($2,308).
Film and TV productions only began shuttering in the last week, and the hiatus has no clear timeframe at this stage. The UK government has introduced some social distancing guidelines but there is an accepted wisdom that those will become more extreme before the situation improves.
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From the survey, many respondents indicated that they were concerned about future loss of earnings. In total, 131 people said they were facing losing over £40,000 ($46,152), 437 said they could lose £20,000-40,000 ($23,067 – $46,152) and 783 people said they may lose up to £20,000 ($23,067).
Of those who replied, 83% cited themselves as freelancers working in TV, film, live tours, theaters, art galleries and art studios.
Members have asked for Bectu to lobby the government to cover pay if public events are banned. Film and TV crew also highlighted that they need sick pay to cover periods of self-isolation.
In response, the union is calling for: direct financial support for freelance and self-employed workers – it says 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 7 May, alongside the announced delay of IR35; rent holidays alongside the announced mortgage holidays; interest free loans and measures to eliminate or suppress credit card interest to prevent debt spirals; drastic simplification of Universal Credit application processes.
“Bectu can’t emphasize 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,” said Bectu Head Philippa Childs.
“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,” she added. 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.”
The UK government is conducting daily briefings during the crisis to provide the latest updates on its response to the virus.
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