The government is considering introducing Statutory Self-Employment Pay, following pressure from many who fear the current lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus will prevent them from receiving a sufficient income.
The House of Commons Public Bill Committee have published a proposed amendment to the Coronavirus Bill which, if approved, will give freelancers and self-employed people a guaranteed income of 80% of their monthly net earnings, averaged over the last three years; or £2,917 per month, whichever is lower.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak came under pressure to support self-employed people who are unable to work during the coronavirus pandemic after he announced the “coronavirus job retention scheme” for employees last week. Grants from HM Revenue and Customs would cover employees’ salaries up to £2,500 per month, backdated to 1 March.
Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, said that while the “lock down” announced by the prime minister was necessary to prevent the spread of the virus, urgent income support measures were also needed to protect the livelihoods of the self-employed and those in the gig economy.
“And the effectiveness of any lock down will be reduced by the fact that without proper sick pay many precarious and low-paid workers who are still working will not be able to stay home when they are ill or need to self-isolate,” he said.
Self-employed people are not eligible for statutory sick pay if they are unable to work because of covid-19, but they can claim the equivalent £94.25 per week in state benefit.
“Proper sick pay is needed to enable low paid workers to protect themselves, their families, and the wider public. And there needs to be income support for the self-employed so they can avoid financial destitution. The prime minister and the chancellor have repeatedly said they will do whatever it takes to protect people and the economy. This is what it takes,” said Moyer-Lee.
The TUC has also joined the call for better protections for the self-employed. It said: “More than five million self-employed people aren’t covered by the government’s job retention scheme.
“And the measures announced last week, which include delaying the next self-assessment tax payments and ensuring that self-employed people on low incomes can access up to £94 a week through the benefits system, are clearly not good enough.
“It’s not right that employees are getting so much help from government while self-employed workers lack proper income support.”