U.K. association Directors UK has joined a chorus of industry voices calling for emergency measures for the freelance workforce as it battles through a pandemic that has ground the local film and TV industry to a halt.
In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Andrew Chowns, CEO of Directors UK, which represents 7,000 screen directors, said the support offered earlier this week to small businesses will “not flow through to the freelance workers who provide the production resource for these companies.”
On Tuesday, the Chancellor revealed that small businesses would receive cash grants of £25,000 ($30,000) as well as a business rates holiday for one year. In addition, the government has postponed the IR35 tax reforms by one year to April 6, 2021, and provided support for those ineligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP).
However, Chowns argues there is not yet sufficient support for freelance workers.
Chowns wrote: “There is now a critical need for similar emergency support measures to be introduced for self-employed workers who are worried, not just about losing their current work, but at the prospect of facing months without income as productions are suspended longer term and, for some smaller productions, indefinitely.”
Chowns said freelance workers must be “supported and compensated” to ensure they “don’t fall into poverty or lose their homes due to loss of income.”
“But crucially, we must ensure they don’t leave the production workforce, so that when the public health crisis is over they are able to return to production quickly and the creative economy can be reactivated speedily to resume generating income for the U.K. economy,” he highlighted.
Directors UK is calling for a form of proportional income support that would guarantee an income that is proportional to a freelancer’s recent average income.
“If a form of proportionate income were made available to freelancers we think this would mean that other reliefs and benefit adjustments would not be necessary, and that a form of basic economic stability could be maintained while the outbreak is dealt with,” said Chowns.
The organization is also asking for freelance and self-employed workers to access the same level of sick pay and protection available to other citizens.
Chowns said the pandemic’s impact on the industry has so far resulted in “unprecedented times,” with many directors and their crews facing long periods of time without work.
The executive’s comments follow the release of the results of entertainment union Bectu’s survey of freelance workers, which found that 46% of 5,600 respondents — 83% of whom are largely freelance — have already lost money due to the outbreak of coronavirus.