The UK’s freelance and self-employed workers ‘urgently’ require financial support from the government, trade unions are warning.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and cinema workers’ union Bectu have led the calls to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, along with former cabinet minister David Davis who warned the economy would suffer a “fatal seizure” if self-employed people do not receive greater financial support.
Mr Sunak announced on Friday that the government will pay at least 80% of workers’ wages up to £2,500 a month for employees who are unable to work during the outbreak of Coronavirus. And earlier in the week, he also announced £330 billion worth of government-backed loans for those affected.
However, there has been no dedicated support for the UK’s five million self-employed workers, meaning many could be left with £95 a week Statutory Sick Pay as their only option.
Treasury minister Stephen Barclay said it is “operationally difficult” to organise similar support self-employed workers, and stressed that they would benefit from measures including a deferral of self-assessment tax requirements, increased benefits, and a mortgage payment ‘holiday’.
Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, said lack of support “will cause real hardship unless we get to grips with it”.
Cinema workers’ union, Bectu, said its self-employed members had been dealt a “devastating blow”, and insisted “much more” needed to be done.
Speaking to the BBC, Conservative MP David Davis said: “It is absolutely necessary. Without this the whole of the British economy will have a seizure – almost a fatal seizure in economic terms
“It is great for those who have got jobs but it does miss out a pretty important sector of the economy – namely the self-employed – and he (Mr Sunak) is going to have to find a way of replicating this for the self-employed as well.”