PAYE Freelancers: pathways to support

PAYE freelancer

If you’re worried about your finances and wondering what support may be available to you, this page suggests a number of steps to take.

Assess > estimate > investigate

Before investigating any form of support it’s important to first assess your current situation, then estimate for the next few months any income/cash from any source (including savings) and compare that to all anticipated costs.

This will help you quantify the level of support you might need before you go looking for it.

And check out our advice and guidance on our Free Stuff page.

1 – Employment status

If you are paid through a payroll system with tax and/or national insurance taken off by the employer, you are treated by the government as an employee.

This is true for people who might be described as ‘casual’ or ‘freelancer’ as well, as long as they are on the payroll. If you receive a payslip, this is you.

2 – Is your employer furloughing people?

Employers are allowed to take part in the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

You can read my blog on this scheme here >

This is so that people can be kept on the payroll, but told to go home and not work. The aim is to make it easy to bring people back to the workplace after the lockdown is lifted.

If you are freelance the key eligibility criterion is:

  • were you on someone’s payroll AND did the employer submit an RTI payroll report to HMRC by 19 March 2020?

If so, you need to approach your employer and check if they are furloughing you. You both have to agree to this, but you, the employee, have no right of appeal if they refuse to furlough you.

If you have multiple employers and you were on multiple payrolls AND they each reported your pay by 19 March, check with all of them. You are allowed to be furloughed by every employer separately.

If so, what might you get?

An employer is allowed to reclaim from the government up to 80% of your average monthly pay, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. So it will cost the employer nothing to pay you 80% of your normal monthly pay for a minimum of three weeks.

UPDATE 12 May 2020: Employers can furlough for up to five months from 1 March to end of July 2020. From August 2020 there will be changes to the scheme, but the scheme has been extended to October 2020.

UPDATE 29 MAY 2020: Employers will be able to introduce flexible furloughing from July 2020. Eg, work 2 days and furlough 3 days.

Some employers will pay their staff more and take the hit themselves. You’d need to check with the employer.

What if they say no?

Try to find out why an employer is not furloughing you. It’s possible that they don’t realise it’s free to them.

It may be that they have a cash flow issue themselves. If so, you could offer to wait until they get paid before taking your government-backed salary.

3 – Check your eligibility for benefits

Benefits may be available to you even if you’re part of the furloughing scheme, particularly if your income on furlough is very low.

It’s worth using a benefits checking site to see what you might be eligible for. It’s like a dry run for applying to the DWP. You can also get advice from Citizens Advice.

turn2us.org.uk >

Citizens Advice >

Universal Credit

Universal Credit may work for you if you do not have support from elsewhere.

To be eligible your household needs to have less than £16K in accessible cash (savings, etc).

  • If you live on your own you are the household.
  • If you live as a couple, sharing bills, you are both the household.
  • If you live in a flat share, but not as a couple, you’re treated as if you live on your own.
How much will you get?

This is very hard to generalise about. If you are 25 or over, a basic amount may be £450-ish per month. For a couple it would be £550-ish per month. But UC can be substantially higher if you have children, and are paying rent or mortgage interest.

It’s paid monthly in arrears (fortnightly in Scotland), but you can get an advance within days if eligible for UC and in difficult financial circumstances.

View a video of a freelance floor manager describing what it was like to apply for Universal Credit >

4 – Check support from industry bodies

Not eligible for the job retention scheme or benefits? You are not alone. There are a number of charities who might be able to help you.

If you work in film or TV, the Film and TV Charity has set up some emergency funds.

Check out our support for freelancers page >

Go back to ‘Types of Freelancer’ page >

Image credit: Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

Please note:

Although every effort has been made to provide accurate tips and information, David Thomas Media Ltd accepts no responsibility for any errors, omissions or out-of-date facts. Trainees are advised to seek up-to-date professional advice on all financial and tax matters before making decisions relating to these subjects. Nothing in our notes, courses, webinars, downloads or social media should be considered as financial advice.
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Posted on 14 April 2020

  1. Monica Roche said:

    Hello, thanks for the article. Could you offer any advice to people like myself who’s PAYE contract has recently ended (24.04.20) but whose employer is reluctant to reemploy them to access the furlough scheme for the following reasons: “having looked into this issue in detail, rehiring you is not straightforward, and we have yet to receive any clear explanation on how your employment and statutory rights would apply at the end of your furlough period. Given this lack of clarity and ongoing uncertainty regrettably we cannot agree to your request”.

    • David said:

      Hi Monica
      Unfortunately employers are completely in the driving seat with furloughing. Some are doing it and some aren’t. If the employer doesn’t want to budge they are within their rights to say no. It’s very frustrating, and I don’t think this is what the Chancellor would want.
      All I can suggest is double checking whether there are any bills you don’t need to pay at the moment. Money Saving Expert website has some good tips on this. See also support from charities, for example via the Film and TV Charity Support line. They are particularly relevant to many, as they provide specialist emotional support as well as some grant schemes. Follow the link on our Free Stuff page for a list of all the charities helping creative freelancers.

  2. Kim said:

    What happens if I worked on a self employed basis as a freelancer for many companies but one company paid me threw a payroll finance company I did not work for them they just issued my money can I still claim the self employed grant even though I was paid paye

    • David said:

      Hi Kim. If your money comes via a payroll company and paid PAYE, you are not a sole trader for that work, and therefore not officially ‘self-employed’ for those jobs, using the government’s definition of self-employed. The self-employed grant is available to people who are still trading as a registered sole trader, and who submitted a tax return for the tax year 2018-2019. More than 50% of your income must have come from your sole trader business (so not paid through PAYE), and your profits as a sole trader must have been less than £50K per year. The fact that some other income came via payroll isn’t relevant, as long as these criteria are met. It’s possible to get the sole trader grant, and still have some other work paid PAYE. They are not mutually exclusive. But you imply that all your work comes via payroll/PAYE.

What do you think?



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