COVID 19: Self-employment support in Scotland
COVID 19: Self-employment support in Scotland
The Scottish Government has called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to offer greater support to the self-employed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Finance Secretary Kate Forbes have written to the Chancellor calling for the Jobs and Retention Scheme – which will see those in employment have 80% of their wages paid by the government – be extended to those who work for themselves.
The news comes after the Prime Minister pledged to ‘stand behind’ Britain’s five million self-employed workers as coronavirus grips the nation.
What is the Scottish Government calling for?
On Friday (March 20) the Chancellor announced the implementation of the Job Retention Scheme which will offer UK employers the opportunity to access support to continue to pay their employee’s salaries. The Scheme will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wages up to £2,500 a year.
While Ms Hyslop and Ms Forbes welcomed the ‘significant steps’ taken by the UK Government to support jobs and incomes, they called on Mr Sunak to act swiftly to ensure Scotland’s 330,000 self-employed workers ‘are not left behind’.
They praised the removal of the Minimum Income Floor, which will see self-employed Scots able to access universal credit at the same rate as those in employment, but said the support ‘does not go far enough’.
Their letter stated: “The action taken in other countries suggest there are credible mechanisms that can support the self-employed. In Norway and Denmark, wage support schemes have been extended to cover the self-employed by covering their lost incomes based on earnings in previous years.
“Greater support could also be offered by relaxing means-testing for Universal Credit to ensure that the self-employed, whether with savings or other household income, are not denied support.”
The letter continued: “Of course, I recognise the complexities in delivering an effective approach – even if you cannot set out all the details now, it is vital that you signal your intention to act and I will work with you to develop any immediate measures.
“There are 330,000 self-employed workers in Scotland, they are critical to the economy, and they must not be left behind in the response to this crisis.”
What support is currently there for people who work for themselves?
While the Chancellor continues to consider additional support measures for the self-employed, last week he promised to “strengthen the safety net for those who work for themselves” as he offered a package of support measures to self-employed workers and freelancers.”
In a statement to the nation on Friday (March 20) Mr Sunak advised self-employed people will have the opportunity to access universal credit at the equivalent of statutory sick pay (SSP) as well as offer tax deferrals in a bid to help those unable to work.
However, at the moment self-employed individuals will not be able to make the most of the government’s 80% earnings pledge like those currently employed by a company.
And as shutters close on hairdressing salons, pubs, cafes and other independent businesses across Scotland, national poverty charity Turn2Us revealed if self-employed workers are forced to stop because of coronavirus a staggering 82% would be better off if their income was guaranteed in the same way as employees.
How can self-employed and freelance workers find help?
One of the biggest changes in support is that freelance and self-employed workers can now access universal credit at a rate equivalent to SSP for employees.
Last Friday Mr Sunak announced that the minimum income floor of universal credit has been temporarily removed, which allows those who work for themselves to be treated the same as those currently employed by a company.
As such, self-employed Scots can claim up to £94.25 per week of SSP for up to 28 weeks and this will be payable from day one instead of day four for applicants.
If you’re interested in finding out more about universal credit and to check your eligibility during the crisis, government advice can be found here.
Freelance and self-employed workers directly affected by the coronavirus, or those forced to self-isolate, can apply for contribution-based employment and support allowance (ESA).
Paid every two weeks in arrears, this benefit is now available from the first day of sickness rather than the eighth day as is typically the case and offers a safety net for those unable to work during the outbreak.
It’s important to note there are eligibility criteria to meet to apply, including having paid enough national insurance contribution for the last two to three years.
However, if you do qualify for support you can receive up to £73 per week for support. You should note that this payment is not dependent on your savings nor does your partner’s savings or salary have an impact on the amount you could be able to claim.
However, if you receive £85 or more per week from a private pension your payment could be reduced.
To apply or for further details, visit the government website here.
Additional support for self-employed workers
Mr Sunak also confirmed that self-employed and freelance workers will not be required to pay the next round of self-assessment payments.
The deadline of July 31 has now been delayed until January 2020.
The Chancellor also announced that VAT will be deferred for next quarter, saving businesses £30bn.
As calls for further support for self-employed workers during the coronavirus outbreak increase, we will continue to update this story as it develops.
However, if you’re struggling with debt and are seeking advice about how to manage your repayments during the outbreak, speak to an expert advisor on 0808 2085 195.
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