Richard E Grant Peter Capaldi c Frazer Harrison Gage Skidmore

Source: Frazer Harrison/Gage Skidmore

Richard E. Grant, Peter Capaldi

Plans to hand UK freelancers the same wage rights as employed people during the coronavirus outbreak have been presented to parliament, as big names from film and TV sign a petition calling for help for actors.

In an amendment to the coronavirus bill, presented by 12 Liberal Democrat MPs, the party called for self-employed workers to be given 80% of their monthly earnings from the past three years, or £2,917 per month, whichever is lower.

This would bring the self-employed in line with staffers offered an extensive package by chancellor Rishi Sunak on Friday, which hands those out of work 80% of their current wage for at least the next three months, back-dated to 1 March.

As it is from an opposition party, there is no guarantee the amendment will be taken up.

Trade bodies including Bectu, Directors UK and actors union Equity have been lobbying the government with similar plans.

In a petition signed by 13,000 actors including Peter Capaldi, Richard E. Grant and David Tennant, Equity today demanded an income guarantee for creative workers over the coming months.

The petition told chancellor Sunak that actors who have lost work “share many of the characteristics of those who are included in the 80% [employee] salary scheme”.

It added: “Creatives, freelancers and self-employed workers deserve the same support and respect as employees in secure jobs.”

The petition has so far amassed 13,677 signatures of its targeted 15,000.

The plans are in line with wider proposals issued by the Trades Union Congress, which cover all industries that rely heavily on a freelance workforce.

So far, freelancers have only been offered access to Universal Credit as the government suspends the minimum income floor, but this amounts to less than £100 per week and takes five weeks to access.

Freelancers to lose £32,000 per year

The amendment was tabled as Bectu research found that out-of-work freelancers will lose on average £32,000 per year even with the Universal Credit take-up.

Bectu’s snap survey of 3,000 freelance workers revealed an average £38,000 per year earnings before tax, while the current rate of Universal Credit will hand these workers just £4,800 for the next 12 months.

“These findings show why the current government offer to the self-employed to access £94 a week through the benefits system is not enough to even cover their overheads and ensure they are in a position to financially recover from the effects of coronavirus,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs.

More than 140 indie sector figures came together over the weekend to submit to the Treasury Committee’s investigation into whether the government’s response to coronavirus has been sufficient, imploring Sunak to provide more support to the freelance community.

The deadline for submissions closed at 5pm yesterday, before prime minister Boris Johnson announced a further country-wide lockdown.

This story first appeared on Screen’s sister site Broadcast