Financial advice

Financial guidance for film, TV and cinema professionals during Covid-19

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Sole traders | Limited companies | Business interruption loans | Short-term PAYE | Your rights | Reducing costs

Government support

The government has used the term ‘self-employed’ to define a specific group of freelance workers; those registered as sole traders or who are members of partnerships and who invoice for payment and complete yearly tax returns.

If you’re a sole trader

If you’re registered as a sole trader or member of a partnership, the government expects to be offering you support via its self-employment income support scheme.

The scheme has provided grants to self-employed individuals or partnerships with less or no work due to coronavirus.

The first round of the scheme allowed individuals to claim a grant worth 80% of average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering an initial 3 months from March 2020 and capped at £2,500 per month (£7,500 in total)

The deadline for claiming this grant was 13th July 2020.

The scheme has been extended.  If you were eligible for the first grant (even if you didn’t claim it) and can confirm to HMRC that your business has been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020, you can now make a claim for a second grant.

This grant is worth 70% of your average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering a further 3 months, capped at £6,570 in total.

The deadline for claiming this grant is 19th October

The Government recently announced that the scheme will be extended again from 1st November for eligible individuals who,

• Are currently eligible for the the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (they don’t have to have claimed the previous grants)
• Are currently actively trading and intend to continue to trade
• Are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus after 1 November

The extension will provide two grants and will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021. Grants will be paid in two lump sum instalments each covering a three-month period.
The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November 20 until the end of January 21. This will cover 20% of average monthly trading profits, capped at £1,875 in total.

Details of the second grant (from Feb 2021) aren’t available yet.

For all stages of the scheme,

  • HMRC will use an average of your profits from tax returns in 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 to calculate the size of the grant. If you haven’t submitted tax returns for all 3 years, an average of 2017-18 and 2018-19 or 2018-19 only will be used.
  • The government has published detailed guidance of  how it will calculate your grant.
  • Grants won’t need to be repaid but will count towards taxable income.
  • You can check onlineto find out if you are eligible. You will need your self-assessment unique taxpayer reference (UTR) and your National Insurance (NI) number.

Things to note:

  • At least 50% of your earnings for the period must have come from work as a sole trader or partnership.
  • Individuals showing trading profits of over £50,000 will not be eligible to apply
  • You must have submitted a 2018/19 tax return.
  • You’re also entitled to claim Universal Credit and might be able to apply for a coronavirus business interruption loan.


If you’ve set up a limited company and pay yourself through PAYE

The government may be offering you support via its coronavirus job retention scheme

This scheme closed to completely new entrants from 10th June. You are still able to re-furlough yourself if you have already been on a furlough for a period of at least 3 weeks since March 2020.

Parents returning from maternity/ paternity leave are an exception and should still be able to furlough themselves after the 10th June deadline.

All UK employers with a PAYE scheme have been able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary by placing them on furlough. Employees must be furloughed for a minimum period of 3 weeks.

Initially HMRC paid employers a grant worth 80% of an employee’s usual wage costs, up to £2,500 a month, plus the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on that subsidised wage. This was in place from March- August 2020.

From 1st July, employers have had the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back to work on a part time basis. Employers will be responsible for paying wages while employees are at work but the government will continue to contribute to hours that employees remain furloughed.

From August 2020, the scheme has been tapered.

  • In August, the government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500. Employers will start to pay Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions.
  • In September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50. Employers will pay the additional 10% of wages as well as NI and pension costs
  • In October, the government will pay 60% of wages to a cap of £1,875. Employers will pay 20% of wages plus NI and pension costs.


Claims for the period up to 30th June closed on 31st July


Claims for periods beyond this can be made via an online portal

You will need to have:

  1. Designated yourself (as the employee of your company) as a ‘furloughed worker’
  2. Submited information to HMRC about your earnings

Things to note:

  • As a furloughed worker, you may now carry out paid work through your company as the rules changed on July 1st. You can also be put on furlough via your own company but accept work from a separate employer.
  • You must have begun paying yourself via the PAYE scheme on or before 19th March 2020
  • You will only be able to claim a % of your salary, not your dividends
  • If your business needs short term cash flow support, you may be eligible for a coronavirus business interruption loan


The Coronavirus job retention scheme is being replaced by the job support scheme. This will start on 1st November.

• The job support scheme will run for 6-months.
To be eligible you must have been on your PAYE payroll on or before 23 September 2020.
You do not have to have received support via the coronavirus job retention scheme
You must work for AT LEAST a third of your normal hours from 1st November. You’ll pay yourself in full for this time.
For the hours you can’t work (because of reduced work available),
o The Government will pay a third (up to a cap of £697.92 per month)
o You (as an employer) will pay a third
o You lose a third

More details of the scheme are due to be released later in the month.

Coronavirus business interruption loan scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) supports small and medium-sized businesses, including registered sole traders, with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to six years.

The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The scheme will be delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the Government-owned British Business Bank.

There are 40 accredited lenders able to offer the scheme, including all the major banks.


Small businesses (including sole traders and partnerships) applying for loans of up to £50,000 can access a coronavirus Bounce Back Loan. This is a 100% taxpayer-backed scheme to make the process quicker and more accessible for those who are having difficulties accessing the wider scheme. These loans can be used to support your income.

To be eligible, your business needs to be based in the UK, have been negatively affected by coronavirus, and not to have been in financial distress on 31 December 2019 although you won’t have to prove the future viability of the business.

If the majority of your work comes from short-term PAYE contracts

Unfortunately, you’re not covered by the self-employment income support scheme.

However, you may be benefiting from the coronavirus job retention scheme if you were on the payroll on or before 19th March and your employer is treating you as a ‘furloughed worker’.

This scheme closed to completely new entrants from 10th June. You can still be re-furloughed by your employer if you have already been furloughed for a period of at least 3 weeks since March 2020.

Parents returning from maternity/ paternity leave are an exception and should still be eligible to be placed on furlough after the 10th June deadline.

Things to note:

  • Your employer is responsible for claiming through the Job Retention Scheme on your behalf and for paying you what you’re entitled to. You can’t apply for the scheme yourself
  • Both you and your employer must have agreed to put you on furlough.
  • You can be on any type of contract, including a zero-hour contract or a temporary contract.
  • You might be expected to return to work part-time but remain furloughed for the rest of your employed hours.
  • You were eligible to be furloughed under the scheme if you are a foreign national.
  • You were eligible be furloughed by more than one employer or be furloughed by one employer and continue to work for another.
  • Your employer could choose to pay the additional % of your salary themselves but they don’t have to.
  • If you were ineligible to be furloughed or your employer chose not to do this, the government expects to offer you support via Universal Credit (see below)


Your rights to benefits

  • Employees who are too ill to work or who are self-isolating due to coronavirus are entitled to Statutory Sick Pay(SSP)
  • Self-employed workers who are not eligible for SSP will be able to claim contributory Employment Support Allowance. This is now available from day one, not after a week
  • Universal Creditis available for those who are unemployed, self-employed or on a low income. A number of beneficial changes have been made to Universal Credit in response to coronavirus
    • The monthly standard rate has been increased
    • The housing allowance has been increased
    • The minimum floor element of the benefit has been temporarily suspended,



Reducing your costs


  • All homeowners can apply for a break from their mortgage repayments if they are unable to pay because of coronavirus. This was initially put in place for 3-months from March 2020 and has now been extended for a further 3-months., until October 2020. It is important that you discuss and agree this with your lender before falling behind on your payments.
  • Emergency legislation is in place to protect renters and prevent evictions from social or privately rented accommodation until at least 23rdYou should speak to your landlord and come to an agreement if you’re struggling to manage your rent.


Banking and bills

  • All banks and other high-street lenders have been told to offer three-month payment holidays to card and loan customers whose finances are affected by coronavirus. These can be withheld if you were already in debt or facing financial difficulties before the coronavirus. You can apply for a loan or credit card payment holiday until 31 October 2020
  • Some banks are also offering customers the opportunity to temporarily increase their credit limits and access cash in fixed savings accounts without a penalty.
  • The Lifetime ISA (LISA) withdrawal penalty has effectively been removed for a year.
  • Borrowers with car finance plans can ask for a three-month payment holiday.
  • People are also entitled to ask for a 3-month insurance payment holiday.
  • Some utility companies have said that they will take steps to ease the burden on clients by offering increased flexibility and support.


Other regular outgoings

A range of other measures has been introduced to support people whose finances have been impacted by Covid-19, from one-month payment holidays on payday loans to more flexibility around IVA payment plans.

If you have any regular outgoings that are causing financial stress, you are advised to contact your provider to discuss what is possible and agree a plan.



  • HMRC have relaxed the rules on tax liabilities during this period. If you’re concerned about your ability to pay a tax bill, contact HMRC’s coronavirus helpline as soon as possible on Covid

0800 015 9559

We’re continuing to monitor the rapidly changing situation and will review and update our guidance regularly.

In this unprecedented situation, it’s important to look after your mental health. We’re able to offer a listening ear and can also refer you to trained counsellors who can offer more structured support. We recommend you contact the service using our live chat function.