Over 600 freelancers working for the BBC on PAYE contracts are to be offered financial support to cover the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement comes after four months of appeals from the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and affected freelancers for the corporation to cover the earnings of those who were ineligible for Government support schemes and regularly worked for the BBC over the previous 12 months.
The BBC said it was the “right thing to do” to pay the average earnings (capped at £2,500) for March, April and May for the 649 PAYE freelancers.
While a furlough scheme exists for BBC freelances who had been booked for shifts in March, April and May, the NUJ reports the corporation will now include the PAYE freelances who have worked for the corporation every month for the last year but had no bookings or reduced bookings during the lockdown.
Paul Siegert, NUJ national broadcasting organiser, said: “We welcome this decision because it will provide a lifeline 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.”
A BBC spokesperson told Press Gazette: “The BBC has been hugely sympathetic to the situation of PAYE freelancers who make a significant and valuable contribution to the BBC’s output.
“We have retrospectively reviewed the impact on Covid-19 on a small group of regularly engaged PAYE freelancers in the public service who have not been eligible for financial support either through the Government’s Self Employed Freelancer Scheme or via the BBC support packages created in response to the pandemic.
“Although, as we have previously said, the BBC was not eligible for Government furlough funding, we will mirror the furlough scheme for this group from BBC funds by paying their average earnings (calculated over the 12 months prior to Covid) for March to May (capped at £2,500).
“We believe this is the right thing to do.”