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NUJ backs new BBC offer to support PAYE freelances

24 July 2020

PAYE freelances make a significant and valuable contribution to the BBC’s output and the union today welcomed the corporation's commitment to offer them financial support and fair treatment.

The government's existing furlough scheme pays 80 per cent of an individuals pay rate up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The BBC has already mirrored this scheme for BBC freelances who had been booked for shifts in March, April and May. The BBC has now announced it will extend its offer of support to include the 649 PAYE freelances who have worked for the corporation every month for the last year but had no bookings or reduced bookings during the lockdown. The PAYE freelances affected will receive their average earnings for March, April and May and the payments will be capped at £2,500.

The BBC will be contacting each of the affected freelances individually within the next ten days.

Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said:

"It is great news that the BBC has finally listened and will be providing some financial support for the freelance community. We welcome this decision because it will provide a life-line for hundreds of PAYE freelancers who are a vital part of the BBC family and have seen their income dry up during Covid-19. But it is yet another drain on BBC finances when it should be the UK government that should be providing this financial package."

Pamela Morton, NUJ national freelance organiser, said:

"We have been urging the BBC to offer support to its PAYE freelances since the start of the lockdown. I am pleased they have listened to the trade unions and are going to help people.
"This week the NUJ has taken the drastic step of submitting a legal challenge aimed at forcing the government to treat people fairly. We are trying to convince the chancellor to amend the existing financial support schemes and extended them to cover people who are currently excluded.
"NUJ freelance members who are PAYE freelances, or newly self-employed, or without 50 per cent self-employed self-assessed income, or working via limited companies, or self-employed earning more £50,000 all need some form of government support and assistance during the ongoing health and economic crisis."

In a pre-action protocol letter sent by the union to the Treasury this week, the NUJ argues that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme is unlawful on a number of grounds including that it is discriminatory and irrational - the scheme violates the European Convention on Human Rights if Article 14 is taken in conjunction with Article 1 of the Protocol No.1.

Both the income support and the job retention schemes were designed to help employed and self-employed workers. They formed part of a package of measures which the chancellor presented as "doing whatever it takes" to help those affected economically by the pandemic, however the government has excluded PAYE freelancers from the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and often has also excluded them from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This means the chancellor has failed to protect a significant number of working people whose incomes were affected in precisely the same way as others who have qualified for assistance.

Tags: , broadcasting, bbc, freelance, paye, self-employment income support scheme, coronavirus job retention scheme, furlough, government uk, legal action, legal challenge