It’s time to change working life in our industry. Join this Facebook group to take part.

It’s a new initiative called the Television Freelancers Task Force and here’s the link to its new Facebook group:

It’s open to all to join and here’s what it’s all about, in the words of its founders:

The Television Freelancers Task Force is a new initiative for freelancers in the TV industry coming together with the hope of bringing change during these unprecedented times. With the industry currently experiencing enforced downtime, there has never been a better time to take stock and plan for positive change moving forward.

The group is made up of experienced industry freelancers who have come together to campaign for fundamental change within the industry.

We will present our ideas for change to the broadcasters and independent production companies and serve as a rally focus and partner for the unions and guilds who represent freelancers across the sector. Our goals and aims might be seen by some as ‘too idealistic’ – but what’s important is that we start the conversation.

The Television Freelancers Task Force (TFTF) is made up of Lou Patel, Michelle James and Natalie Grant from Share My Telly Job, Adeel Amini from The TV Mindset, James Taylor from Viva La PD, Adrian Pegg, Mark Watson and Benetta Adamson from The TV Watercooler and other leading industry Facebook Groups, and Jude Winstanley from The Unit List.

Whilst we will all continue to work on our individual campaigns, we realise, that as a collective, our reach across the industry is more significant. Together, we hope to be more effective in tackling the well-publicised issues freelancers face today.

Our aim is to come out from this crisis with fairer working conditions for freelancers right across the board.

Our Facebook Group is now live – our membership is an essential part of our mission to create a louder voice so, if you hope for a better work-life balance in an industry that acknowledges your talent, please join the group today.

We have attached our launch document which sets out our aims and goals. We endeavour to keep the group updated on matters that are changing quickly and with the progress we are making.

Please share this post with industry colleagues and join our Facebook group today


Lou, Michelle, Natalie, Adeel, James, Adrian, Benetta, Mark and Jude

*NEW*. The answer to three important furloughing questions

I asked three questions of HMRC Customer support tonight (April 3rd) re furloughing. This is what they are currently saying:

Question 1.

(NB this is a direct contradiction to the advice they gave yesterday (see the top of this page, either because the person who answered it got it wrong either today or yesterday OR because the advice on this has now changed…hopefully the latter).

Question 2.

Question 3.

These are all very promising answers but NB This is NOT “official guidance” yet, we need to see if this is borne out in the imminently arriving changes to the pages. Once that is in we will know for sure…

And one more, asked by someone else:

The freelance conundrum

By Chris Curtis. 2 April 2020. Broadcast magazine.

Has the decades-long path towards casualisation of labour gone too far, asks Chris Curtis

One of the immediate effects of the devastating coronavirus pandemic has been to shine a bright light on the freelance production sector – and a dark picture has emerged.

The vast majority of production has halted and contracts cancelled almost across the board, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. The freelance community was just emerging from its enforced winter hibernation and preparing to get cracking on the swathes of shows that should have begun shooting in the spring. Instead, most have almost no visibility of their next paid gig after months of very limited income.

The various permutations of freelancer contracts and the government’s support schemes are bewildering, and the way the industry operates means many individuals could fall between the cracks unless the Treasury amends its current criteria. Lobbying by indiesbroadcastersunions and trade bodies is underway – let’s hope it is acted upon.

Casual labour

Meanwhile, my inbox has been bombarded with emails from production crew that range from furious to devastated. One had the simple title ‘Absolutely heartbroken’.

Beyond this, people are starting to ask questions about the way in which people are employed in TV and whether the decades-long path towards casualisation has simply gone too far.

Thousands of people whose skills are vital in turning good ideas into hit shows feel as though the industry has cut them adrift. There is speculation that there could be a reset of the relationship between freelancer, production company and even broadcaster.

At the moment, too many people feel as though no-one has got their back.

A contact with a good overview of the freelance market suggested that 90% of freelancers would be prepared to earn 20% less, if it meant the security of a staff job. “They hate the fact that they’re reliant on the market, contacts, or even luck, to pick up the next project”, the source said.

One suggested that the “best” indies develop longstanding relationships with the best freelancers, employing them time and again and creating a reciprocal relationship. They said that some producers are probably just about big enough to take on a handful more staffers.

But will the majority of production companies have capacity, when this is all over, to add to their payroll? One indie boss told me he probably would, if he could secure the very best talent, but this is unlikely to be a widespread solution.

Instead, it feels as though broadcasters, indies and freelancers could edge closer together with a bit more shared sense of responsibility.

If broadcasters could offer longer runs or double series commissions (even at reduced tariffs) it would give producers greater security and visibility.

In turn, indies could firm up freelancer relationships, placing a greater emphasis on retention of talent and their career development.

And strong relationships with a small group of producers might enhance freelancer loyalty and convince them to potentially compromise on rates if they felt looked after emotionally and received other practical benefits.

There are a lot of ifs and buts in this, and it is hard to make too many predictions when there is so little visibility of the duration and severity of the pandemic.

But conversations are starting about how the industry might emerge out of the other side, and what the ‘new normal’ might look like when it comes to contracting freelancers.

Chris curtis

If the only people who dare risk a career in TV production in the future are those with the security of personal wealth, then the industry will be a far poorer place.

Chris Curtis is editor-in-chief of Broadcast

I think it is fair to say that that will strike a chord amongst the freelance community…

Some answers from HMRC to important furloughing questions.

I have tweeted HMRC and asked them some questions, the answers to which are not clear from the official guidance online. Here are their responses:




NB Please see the more specific answer to that question at the bottom of this page!

NB this was the Martin Lewis question, which he said he had an official answer to from the Treasury:

(Clearly the Treasury feels it is OK to share info with Martin Lewis but not the 66.4 million other of us who pay their wages in the UK. Not angry, just sayin’).

And one asked by a freelancer (NB this affects a lot of people!):

I shall tweet answers to those which are pending as and when they arrive.

Feel free to take those answers which are beneficial to your case to your company. If they doubt the answers they can always ask directly themselves – companies are (understandably) nervous of doing anything wrong and are (less understandably) playing it too safe when it comes to furloughing.

Keep well people.

More useful guidance to furloughing

To add to the previous information from Jane Merkin. This is a summary of BECTU’s finance webinar with Tony Lennon (Freelance and
Research Officer) and Philippa Childs (Head of BECTU) 31.03.20

BECTU is working incredibly hard on behalf of ALL the self-employed who are falling through the gaps in the Government schemes, but the message from the Treasury has been clear – they are setting a very high bar for any changes to the schemes announced and that the demands should be “proportionate and solutions-based”.

While BECTU has a direct line to the Treasury and are pressing every scenario, their sense is that they won’t achieve everything they demand.

PAYE Employees/Fixed term contracts

1. There has been clarification around the date of 28th February which may have important implications for some – if you were on a company’s payroll, and being paid, on 28th February you are eligible for the Job Retention Scheme. When the Chancellor announced it was widely interpreted that someone had to be contracted on 28th February in order to be eligible to be furloughed. This is not the case. Your contract may have ended earlier, but you need to have been on the payroll on 28th February and paid on or after that date.

2. If your contract has or is due to end AFTER 28th February, you should ask your employer at that time to extend your contract. There is evidence that some employers have done this so you should certainly ask.

3. Should you request this and your employer refuses, if you are a BECTU member (if not, WHY not?!), they will help you in approaching your employer.

4. There have been reports to BECTU that people who have asked to be put back on contract at companies so they can be furloughed are being told that the company will only do so if they vary the terms of the contract. This may be to include a clause that the contract will be terminated when the period of furlough, currently 3 months from 1st March, comes to an end. It is possible that the Government will have to extend this scheme so if your employer requests a variation, ensure that there is no end date but it would be reasonable for your contract to end once JRS is withdrawn.

5. Currently, the BBC has said that it will only furlough people until the natural end of their contract. This only impacts on people employed directly by the BBC.

Sole Traders/Schedule D

1. The deadline for filing your 2018-19 tax return, if you have not already done so, is 23rd April 2020

Limited Companies

1. If you haven’t already, ask your accountant whether you are a PAYE employee of your company. If you are not (and don’t simply assume that you are), then you are excluded from the Job Retention Scheme.

Business Interruption Loan

1. This is applicable to both Sole Traders and Ltd Companies and is for £10,000

2. The loans are available through any bank, subject to the same checks as any other bank loan, so don’t assume that you will automatically receive it.

3. The loan will be 0% for 12 months and thereafter interest will apply.

Universal Credit

People who previously didn’t have access to UC now do, so even if you have applied before and been refused, it is worth applying now.

Any Other Business

If you haven’t already, write to your MP, asking for all workers to be treated equally. It’s important to stress that many of us in the industry are NOT wealthy individuals, and for Ltd Companies, that you are very small and vulnerable.

How Much Should I Be Paid?

We thought it would be a good idea to show the minimum you should be paid per hour. Holiday pay should be paid at the end of your contract for any untaken holiday, and on a casual engagement it should be added to the rate.

NMW Rates have been updated as of 1st April 2020

More detail

The government website has more details about NMW, employment rights for interns and work experience, as well as working as an intern and as an apprentice (they are NOT the same thing). (Apprentice holiday pay is not shown above as the rate is different from Workers).

See also You And The Minimum Wage

A second email from Bob Shennan at the BBC

Supporting freelance and fixed term colleagues through this challenging period
This message is being sent to all freelancers with a current or recent BBC contract

Hi everyone,

I want to start by thanking you all for supporting each other and helping us to provide vital services during this challenging time. Earlier in the week, we, along with other PSBs, contacted the UK Chancellor to ask the Government to support our critically important freelance community. I wrote to you last week and wanted to follow up on the support we plan to provide for our vital fixed term and freelance workforce. 

Supporting freelance and fixed term colleagues
We hire temporary employees on fixed term contracts as well as engaging on and off-air freelancers. Some freelancers are paid through our payroll and are often referred to as ‘PAYE freelancers’ or ‘casual workers’. We also engage self-employed freelancers who are paid on a gross basis. The majority of our freelancers and fixed term colleagues are fully occupied supporting our continuing output and their jobs are not at risk as a result of COVID-19. However, unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, we have had to postpone or cancel some productions. We know that is creating insecurity and anxiety and our first priority is to try and redeploy our people where we can, recognising that is not always possible.

What support will be available?
We have listened to the concerns of our freelance and fixed term colleagues, as has the UK Government. Following on from the support announced by the Government, we are also putting in place a series of measures that provide support to our fixed term workers as well as our freelance workforce, both PAYE and Self-Employed.The measures we are offering will provide:·         

Income protection against any loss of work due to Covid-19 – this wouldn’t apply to contracts that end for other reasons.·         

Sick pay cover.·         Wellbeing support.

What it means for each group
As we engage people differently, these measures will apply in different ways depending on the types of engagement. We have outlined below how they will apply to fixed-term colleagues, PAYE and Self-Employed freelancers.The Government has provided two schemes, one for PAYE workers and one for the self-employed to ensure that people in each of these groups can access up to 80% of their earnings up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months. The schemes are similar but are accessed in different ways. As the schemes were only announced yesterday, we are seeking clarity on some of the details.

If you are on a fixed term contract and joined the BBC before 28th February§  With funding support from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the BBC plans to pay either 100% of your pay or £3,000 per month for the remaining period of your contract up to a maximum of 3 months – whatever is the lesser amount. This will be effective from the 1st March 2020.§  You are also eligible for full BBC sick pay and have access to our wellbeing support services (counselling and remote GP service) under your current contract.

If you are a PAYE freelancer and joined the BBC before 28th February§  With funding support from the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the BBC plans to pay either 100% of your pay or £3,000 per month for the remaining period of your contract up to a maximum of 3 months – whatever is the lesser amount. This will be effective from the 1st March 2020.§  You are entitled to claim Statutory Sick Pay if you are ill and we will top this up to 2 weeks full pay if you are sick while engaged to work for us.§  By the end of next week we will also provide additional support with access to our Employee Assistance Programme which offers a range of support including telephone advice, counselling sessions and access to our remote GP services.

If you are a self-employed freelancer (paid Gross pay without deductions for tax and NI)§  Yesterday, the Chancellor announced an income support scheme for the self-employed. If you are eligible you will receive a cash grant worth 80% of your average monthly trading profit over the last three years for the three month period from 1st March. This will be paid to you on application through HMRC. §  We are expecting details of how this scheme will operate in the next few days. We will publish this for you as soon as we have it and we are exploring the ways that we will be able to supplement this scheme. 

Covid-19 Support FundWe understand that the Government support may not be available until June for self-employed freelancers, and know that may leave some people without an income in the meantime. To help, we have also set up a central fund for freelancers who are adversely impacted by Covid-19. The fund is available to support self- employed freelancers who have, or would have had, booked engagements with the BBC Group between March and June. Payments made from the fund would be offset against future work and we’ll share further details of how to access the fund next week.Next stepsWe hope the proposals we have set out will help support you at this difficult time. They are complex and the mechanism for accessing payments is in the process of being developed. We are also waiting for more guidance from the Government about how their income support schemes will operate.  Because of that, we do not have all the answers right now to the many questions that you will have. I hope you will bear with us as we understand more and develop our proposals in detail. We will continue working on this detail and get back to you as soon as possible. If you have a question about the Government’s support schemes, you can access more information here.We are developing additional supporting materials and frequently asked questions.  In the meantime, you can share your queries about the support the BBC is providing, here.  

Thank you

Thank you for everything you are doing to support our audiences and each other at this difficult time. We are here to support all of you.


Bob Shennan
Managing Director

[Message clipped]  View entire message

Some extremely useful guidance to the whole furloughing business (and lots of other financial matters)

Reproduced with kind permission from Jane Merkin.

This is my summary of The TV Mindset’s webinar with David Thomas on
28.3.20, with some additional information kindly provided by a Chief Operating Officer.

This is my summary of The TV Mindset’s webinar with David Thomas on 28.3.20, with some additional information kindly provided by a Chief Operating Officer.


1. PAYE Freelancer: you will be moving between short contracts in a company and are effectively paid as an employee, even though you will not receive some employee rights. Your employer will be responsible for deducting tax and NI and you will not complete a tax return on PAYE income;

2. Self-employed Sole Trader: If you are registered with HMRC as Schedule D you are also considered a Sole Trader. You will invoice for your work and are required to complete an annual tax return. You will be taxed on your profit and NOT your turnover – ie your profit will be your turnover minus legitimate business expenses;

3. Limited Company: You will be an employee of your company, even if you are the sole director and will receive PAYE income from that company. Usually this is a very small amount for tax reasons. The company will receive payment from whoever you work for and is able to then pass that on to you as a dividend at various points throughout the year. The company will pay corporation tax and as a recipient of dividends, you will complete a tax return and be liable for the tax on that income.


Now is the time to look at your finances and cashflow.

1. Assess your current situation

2. Project your spending and any known income and identify any gaps between your expenditure and your income. Use the very handy spreadsheet that David has on his website

3. Investigate what support is available – from the new schemes introduced by the Government in the past few days, as well as from unions and other bodies


Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

1. This was announced on Thursday for people who are Sole Traders. NB it is possible for people to be partnerships of more than 1 Sole Trader

2. It is open to Sole Traders whose annual PROFITS, averaged over 3 years of tax returns (2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018 – 19), are less than £50,000 – ie if your average profits are £49,999.99 you are eligible, but if your average profits are £50,000.00 you are not.

3. This is based on your profits and NOT your turnover

4. You need to have been trading for at least 1 year (ie 2018-19) and submitted a tax return for that period.

5. If you are late in filing your tax return (tsk tsk), you have FOUR weeks to submit it.

6. If you have only submitted for 1 or 2 years (ie 2018-19 or 2017-18 and 2018-19), HMRC will calculate the average across those years

7. You will be entitled to a taxable grant of 80% of the average profits to a maximum of £2500 for 3 months. This will be paid as a single lump sum, probably in June

8. HMRC will contact everyone who can benefit from this scheme directly with details of how to apply. PLEASE be aware that there may be unscrupulous scammers who will try and exploit this situation so only respond to a bona-fide email – HMRC will never ask for personal banking information as they will already hold these details.

9. Even if you intend to use (or are using when it comes in) this scheme you can apply for Universal Credit but any income from this scheme will affect what you will receive through UC (more detail on UC later)

10. The tax which would ordinarily be due to be paid on 31st July 2020 can be deferred until January 2021

11. If you are VAT registered, and have a VAT payment due between 20th March and 30th June 2020 you have the option to either pay the VAT due as normal or defer to a later date. You will not be charged interest penalties on any amount deferred but you must pay the VAT due on or before 31st March 2021. If you normally pay by Direct Debit you should cancel your Direct Debit as soon as you can either directly with your bank or through online banking. After the VAT deferral ends, VAT payments due will need to be paid as normal. Information about how to repay the VAT you’ve deferred will be available soon. If you’re experiencing financial difficulties, more help is available from HMRC’s “Time to Pay” scheme.

12. Use the spreadsheet on David’s website to automatically calculate your average profits and the 80% taxable grant that you will receive. It currently is not set up for those with less than 3 years’ worth of tax returns but he will address that asap.

13. Sole Traders can also apply for Business Interruption Loans which are available through any bank (not necessarily your own although if you are a customer I suspect you will be considered more kindly!) which are 0% interest loans. But these are currently only loans and will need to be repaid.

14. Sole Traders often have what is called “lumpy profits” – ie not regular amounts. If you had time off in the last 3 years, the Government is trying to find a solution to this and the scheme will be tweaked.

15. If you have only recently set up as a Sole Trader, you are currently not eligible for this scheme, but if you are going to submit a tax return for 2019 – 2020, given that the tax year ends on 5th April 2020, it is worth submitting your return asap as this will provide evidence to the HMRC that you are a Sole Trader and as things wash out, you may be entitled to be considered for this scheme


1. Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)

a) You can apply for this if you are sick or self-isolating

b) It is NOT means-tested and covers basic living costs

c) You will need to have paid two years of NI contributions

d) Apply by phone 0800 3285644

e) It is paid fortnightly in arrears at £73/week

2. Universal Credit

a) It is available for households whose income has gone down

b) It is means-tested. If you have £6000 in savings, the money on offer reduces incrementally to nothing if you have £16,000 or over

c) It contains elements if you have children and help with rent

d) You apply online and then will have a telephone interview

e) It is paid monthly in arrears or fortnightly in arrears in Scotland

f) Approximate maximums range are £300/month for single under-25 year olds, £400/month singles over 25 and £550 for couples where 1 is over 25. If you’re both under 25 – what were you thinking?! (seriously, don’t know the figure but check the Government website)

g) The advice is to get into the UC system if you qualify. Don’t worry if you will be eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme as the UC will adjust when that is paid.

h) If you need it, UC can give an advance within days of being approved, otherwise it takes an average of 5 weeks before the first payment arrives.

Job Retention Scheme

1. This is for anyone who was being paid as PAYE (ie on a company’s payroll), whether as permanent staff or on a fixed-term contract on 28th February 2020. If you were not contracted on 28th February you are NOT eligible for this scheme.

2. Companies designate employees as “furloughed workers” who are then not allowed to generate any income for that company.

3. HMRC reimburse the employer with 80% of an employee’s wages to a maximum of £2500 for 3 months

4. NI contributions and a minimum level of any auto-enrolled pension scheme will be paid, initially by the company but HMRC will reimburse both.

5. HMRC are in the process of setting up an online portal for employers to use and the scheme can be backdated to 1st March 2020.

6. If you were on the payroll on 28th February and either the company terminated your contract because of the Coronavirus OR your contract came to its natural end after that date, your employer could extend your contract or rescind the termination. It would be at almost no cost to the company as HMRC would reimburse wages etc as above – the only cost would be for the company to administer this. But it is for the company to keep you on their payroll.

7. Pressure IS being brought to bear on indies by all sorts of bodies to follow this practice and there is a real moral imperative for them to do so. The advice is that you should approach the company that you were working for and ask to be taken back onto their books. There is a real understanding that it might be difficult for an individual to approach a company and request this but do remember that the people who run these companies are having to deal with many of the same things as you and are likely to be sympathetic.

8. You may need to patient with indies if you approach them as this is a very new scheme and everyone is unsure how it will operate. It’s very complex and particularly small indies will face huge issues of cash flow but do be assured that this is being explored 24/7.

9. If the indie refuses on the grounds that they had already issued a P45 and they cannot rescind it, you can confidently tell them that this is contrary to the

advice on the HMRC website and there is an explanation available on what they need to do in order to put you back on the payroll.

10. If you were employed by the BBC on a PAYE contract on 28th February which was either terminated or came to a natural end after that date, you should contact whoever was your line manager and ask to be taken back onto the books. I’ve seen an email in which those employed on PAYE contracts have been told they will be eligible for this scheme to a maximum of £3000, which is a move to be applauded. Presumably the BBC are making up the £500 above what is being offered by the Government from their own coffers.

11. If you are furloughed from a company you may still be entitled to work, just not for that company.

12. If the company at which you were working on 28th February has gone into administration, contact the administrators to request to be put back on their books and furloughed as administrators have a legal obligation to pay employees.

Limited Companies

1. Under the Job Retention Scheme you can furlough yourself, even if you are a director, and receive 80% of any salary paid to you as an employee, although this is likely to be very small

2. Any dividends which you are paid by your company will NOT be considered as income under the Job Retention Scheme.

3. You can apply for a Business Interruption Scheme through any bank at 0% interest but remember this is a LOAN.

4. If your company is VAT registered, the same conditions apply as outlined under Self-Employment Income Support Scheme Item 11

Any Other Business

I understand that some of you will have questions after reading this and I wish I could answer them, but this is all the information that I currently have. Read this document carefully and you may well find the answer. Adrian and Benetta are working incredibly hard on numerous issues – please don’t take their attention away from those.

If you fall through any of the gaps DO NOT DESPAIR, DO NOT PANIC! This is an evolving situation and the Government’s intention seems to be to help as many people as possible but the differences in people’s employment makes it a very complex task. They have attempted to help the biggest group first – employees – now the self-employed. What’s important is to keep reminding them that you are outside these new schemes.

There is more here too.

Press Coverage

UK’s Covid-19 Film and TV Emergency Relief Fund launches as 93% of freelancers now out of work
Screen Daily

Covid-19 Relief Fund donations hit £2.5m

‘Forgotten Freelancers’ Highlighted in U.K. Campaign for Coronavirus Financial Support

Super-indies commit to freelancer support

WFTV UK: 96% of members have lost income

Freelancer latest: blow as 28 February cut-off remains

PSBs issue joint plea to government for freelancer support

Broadcasters and Pact unite for freelancer masterplan

ITV execs take coronavirus pay cut

The freelance conundrum

Coronavirus support loophole leaves many UK film and TV staff without pay, say MPs
The Guardian

Sky chief donates salary to Covid-19 charities

Coronavirus: Two million with some self-employment income will not benefit from government support scheme, IFS warns

Millions in UK ‘could slip through virus wage safety net’
The Guardian

Pact: indies cannot afford to furlough freelancers

U.K. Government Faces Pressure From Industry on Economic Measures for Freelancers

Hard hit freelancers to receive support from industry
The Location Guide

Freelancers: are you entitled to support?

Gaps in coronavirus support for business need to be filled
Institute of Directors

Chancellor’s coronavirus bailout ignores many self-employed
The Guardian

Bectu: government excluding half of TV’s freelancers

The self-employed will struggle during this pandemic
The Guardian

Coronavirus support loophole leaves workers without pay
Sky News

PAYE freelancers fall between cracks for government help

Self-employed paid in dividends to miss out on Rishi Sunak’s bailout package
The Telegraph

Coronavirus: Thousands call on government to amend ‘huge oversight’ in job retention scheme as workers face being laid off across UK
The Independent

Unions press Treasury on freelancers left in limbo

Things are not good for freelancers now, but there is reason for hope
Red Shark News

Creative industries left out of self-employed support

BBC donates £500K to Covid-19 Fund

BBC announce £700,000 donation to help freelancers in TV and film out of work because of Coronavirus

Indies challenged to help freelancers

Freelancers raise risk of falling through cracks

Ian Katz reaches out to freelance community

C4 warns indies: we may not cover coronavirus costs