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UK govt unveils plan for self-employed workers

New measures announced by UK chancellor Rishi Sunak see self-employed workers gain access to grants worth 80% of their average monthly earnings from June

By Anna Grace on 26 Mar 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak opened the scheme today

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak

image © Chris McAndrew

UK chancellor Rishi Sunak today (26 March) announced a support package aimed at helping the country’s five million self-employed workers, in news that will likely be met with relief from the 72% of the UK music industry workforce who are self-employed.

The announcement comes after extensive lobbying from industry bodies representing touring crew, production staff and other live events freelancers facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus pandemic.

The chancellor said he knew self-employed people were “deeply concerned” by the risk of losing their livelihoods, making specific mention to musicians and sound engineers.

Sunak announced that self-employed people will have access to a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly profit over the past three years, up to £2,500 a month for at least three months. The chancellor says the measures will cover 95% of the country’s self-employed workers.

“This is the same as the measures made available to furloughed employees,” said Sunak, making the scheme “one of the most generous in the world”.

“This provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people”

In order to ensure targeted support, the scheme is open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 and only to those who make the majority of their earnings through self-employment. Access to the scheme will be available no later than the beginning of June.

As of today, self-employed people can also begin to access universal credit in full and the business interruption loan scheme, which was opened up for businesses last week.

A further measure allows those who missed the tax return deadline at the end of January four weeks from today to submit their returns.

“This provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people,” said Sunak.

The support package follows previous measures that have seen the government back £330 billion in guaranteed loans for businesses – although many companies that do not meet the lending criteria currently remain without access to these loans –, business rates exemption, cash grants and wage subsidies.

“The chancellor should outline interim financial help for the self-employed to help them survive until the support scheme kicks in”

UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl says the help will be “a vital lifeline to thousands in the music industry”.

“It is important the chancellor recognised in his remarks that musicians and sound engineers are among the many in our sector who have seen their work dry up and need support fast.

“We need immediate and urgent help for the self-employed. People need financial support now and cannot wait until June for the scheme to kick in or wait weeks for payments under universal credit.

“The chancellor should outline interim financial help for the self-employed to help them survive until the support scheme kicks in. He should make clear whether the support will be backdated.

“There remains a need for support for those in the music industry that have not been self-employed for very long, including recent graduates, who will not qualify for this grant.”


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