The NUJ has submitted a legal challenge to the government claiming that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme introduced by the Treasury has excluded large numbers of freelancers and is discriminatory.
The NUJ also contends that the Treasury failed to produce a coherent policy to explain the circumstances in which those working for publicly-funded employers like the BBC can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “The NUJ has campaigned hard to persuade the government to do the right thing and support freelances who have not been allowed to access government support during this unprecedented health crisis. Sadly, that hasn’t happened and many NUJ freelances have experienced enormous hardship.
“We’re taking this legal step because it is clearly wrong and grossly unfair that some workers have been given vital support whilst others have been cast adrift. Even at this late stage our hope remains that the government will rethink and take urgent measures to right this wrong.
“This crisis should act as a wake-up call about the working practices for journalists, and other freelances in the creative industries. We need reformed public policy for freelances and the self-employed that is fit for purpose and reflects the way in which workers are forced to operate by employers.”
The union is now seeking an urgent review and revision of the SEISS Direction and/ or the CJRS Direction. The union aims to secure amendments to the schemes and ensure they are more accessible to all PAYE freelance workers.
A response has been requested by 27th July 2020 and if no satisfactory response is received then the NUJ will consider commencing judicial review proceedings.