Worrying times for self-employed workers

Like all of you I have been following the Government guidelines during this unprecedented time, to protect myself, others and the emergency services, writes MP John Trickett.

This is an incredibly difficult time for us all, many of whom will know somebody who has fallen ill from this dreadful virus.

My thoughts are with the loved ones of those who have sadly died.

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I am immensely grateful to all our NHS staff, care workers and those working on the front line, be it delivery drivers, shop workers, the list goes on. You are all working tirelessly to help us come through this.

As well as heavily impacting our healthcare system, Covid-19 is also having a huge impact on our economy and those people who are self-employed.

Over recent weeks, me and my team have been inundated with contact from constituents who are self-employed and worried about their financial security in the face of the lock-down we are now living under.

I sympathise with the desperate situation many of these individuals are now facing.

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On March 26, the chancellor announced the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. Here the self-employed can claim for 80 per cent of their profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the three months from March 1, 2020.

This is open to businesses with profits of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or average annual profits of less than £50,000 from 2016 to 2019.

To qualify, more than half of a person’s income must have come from self-employment during these periods. Grants will be paid under the scheme in a single lump sum and will start to be paid at the beginning of June.

I welcome the reassurance this scheme will provide. However, there are still many gaps that currently exist in protecting the self-employed.

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I am concerned that June is too long to wait for those needing immediate support.

It is also not acceptable that two million people are not covered by the Government’s scheme.

This includes many people within our area, such as those who have not submitted a tax return for 2019 and have only recently become self-employed, as well as those who pay themselves a salary and dividend through their company but are not operating PAYE schemes.

The Government must urgently adjust the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to ensure no workers are left behind.

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The Federation of Small Businesses (www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19.html) and Citizens’ Advice (www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-youre-self-employed/) have more details about assistance for the self-employed, as does the official Government site (www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme).

I hope this information will help ease the worries many self-employed people currently feel.

As a country and as a local community, we are in a difficult moment right now, facing an uncertain future.

However, by working together, helping each other and supporting those in need, we can come through this period as a stronger society.