This week, England once again entered lockdown in an attempt to combat the threat of COVID-19, while Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are subject to their own separate local restrictions.
To soften the financial impact of these restrictions, the Government has announced some changes to its support packages over the coming months, and you can find out more about these below. While these changes are welcome, we were once again deeply disappointed by the ongoing lack of support for freelancers and limited company owners not currently eligible for the Government’s existing schemes, and have issued a statement in response. We will continue to fight alongside stakeholders and other industry bodies for proper, inclusive freelancer support.
Read on to find out the latest about government restrictions, film and TV production under COVID, and financial support.
Second national lockdown announced for England
On Saturday 31 October, the Government announced a second national lockdown for England, to help combat the spread of coronavirus and protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with rising patient numbers.
This lockdown began on Thursday 5 November and is expected to end on Wednesday 2 December. The Government have stated that after this time, England will return to the tiered system of local regulations to manage coronavirus.
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have separate local restrictions on work, travel and the mixing of households:
Under these restrictions, film and TV production is still permitted in all of these regions.
What does lockdown mean for directors working in England?
Currently, film and TV production can continue as long as it’s being conducted in a COVID-secure manner.
On 31 October, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted that: “…travel to a place of work will be permitted – e.g. this includes…elite sport played behind closed doors, film and TV production, telecoms workers. We understand people will have a lot of questions and DCMS officials and ministers will be working through these and detailed implications with sectors over the coming days…”.
Head of the BFI Ben Roberts retweeted this with the comment: “Covid secure Film & TV production is permitted under the new guidelines”.
Production companies should have a set of project-specific protocols related to working during the pandemic. You should continue to follow these protocols.
To make sure that your production is COVID-secure, we’d recommend referring to the advice in our new resource: Working Under COVID: Advice for Factual Directors. Although the advice is tailored for factual directors, there is a lot of information in there that is relevant to directors working in all genres and particularly small crews working in factual or on micro-budget independent films and documentaries who may not be able to rely on production company protocols.
The Pact and broadcasters’ TV Production Guidance remains in place. The British Film Commission’s guidance on film and high-end TV drama production will be updated to reflect the new environment within the next few days.
Other useful resources:
Measures are being revised on a daily basis, but as we understand it at the time of writing, the following support is available:
For those previously on furlough:
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ‘furlough’ scheme was due to close on 31 October. This has now been extended until March 2021, but will be reviewed in January. Employees can receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.
For those with mortgages:
Mortgage holidays no longer end on 31 October. Borrowers who have been impacted by coronavirus and have not yet had a mortgage payment holiday will be entitled to a six month holiday, and those that have already started a mortgage payment holiday will be able to top up to six months without this being recorded on their credit file.
For the self-employed:
The Government has announced a third instalment of the UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). Claimants can receive 80% of their average trading profits. Money can also be claimed faster. Applications can commence on 30 November. The maximum grant will be £7,500.
To be eligible for the grant extension, self-employed individuals, including members of partnerships, must:
- have been previously eligible for the first and second Self-Employment Income Support Scheme grants (although they do not have to have claimed the previous grants)
- declare that they intend to continue to trade and either:
- are currently actively trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
- were previously trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus
The BFI have indicated that an additional grant covering February to April 2021 is anticipated. We will provide more details should this be announced.
For the self-employed also claiming Universal Credit:
Prior to the pandemic, Universal Credit support payments to self-employed people were made on the assumption that the self-employed person was earning a baseline sum of money and Universal Credit effectively topped that up. When the pandemic began, this assumption was suspended and self-employed people could claim support based on their actual earnings. This suspension was due to end on 12 November, but the Department for Work and Pensions announced on 3 November that this suspension will remain until the end of April 2021, enabling self-employed people who have seen their earnings drop to claim support at a different rate.