Business leaders have welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement that self-employed workers and freelancers who have lost earnings as a result of the Coronavirus will receive financial support.
More than a week after outlining support for businesses and employed workers, the government was coming under increasing pressure to introduce measures to protect the UK’s five million self-employed workers.
At the daily Coronavirus press conference in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak revealed that self-employed workers will receive 80% of pay up to £2,500 a month, calculated by an average of their monthly earnings over the past three years.
Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said: “The self-employed…remained a glaring gap. They needed more help, and especially those with least resources to prepare for this storm. We have heard despairing stories from hard-working hairdressers, bakers, childcare providers, freelancers, drivers and many others, seeing the businesses they’ve spent years building dry up in a matter of days. It is many of those strivers who today’s package will support.
“The self-employed community underpins the UK economy. They are the individual risk-takers who don’t expect the same benefits as employees. In this moment of a collective national effort to overcome a global pandemic, today’s package is a significant, multi-billion-pound improvement on what was proposed last Friday.”
Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said: “Many self-employed people across the UK will be hugely relieved tonight.
“These new measures will provide essential support to those facing significant uncertainty and loss of income.
“Given the complexity of the task, it’s understandable this will take time to deliver. Fast clarity on how and when money will reach their bank accounts will help individuals to plan.
“The self-employed make an immense contribution to our society and across many industries. They will play a critical role in the UK’s recovery once we overcome the worst of the virus.”
There was, however, some concern and criticism from a significant portion of self-employed workers who are not eligible for the support. Mr Sunak suggested the measures will help 95% of self-employed workers, but that still leaves more than 250,000 without any support.
He confirmed the support would only be available who have been self-employed for at least one year, with a tax return for 2019, ruling out anyone who began self-employment during the 19/20 financial year. The Chancellor said the government wasn’t able to include those people to avoid fraudulent claims, insisting “we can’t help people we know nothing about”. Rishi Sunak also announced that the scheme is not likely to be ready until June, leaving a period of uncertainty until then.