Grant worth 20pc of pay means ‘dark times ahead’ for free­lancers

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Harry Bren­nan

CRI­SIS-HIT free­lancers face a bleak win­ter af­ter be­ing forced to ac­cept a mas­sive cut to state sup­port in new mea­sures an­nounced by the Chan­cel­lor, self-em­ployed groups have said.

Work­ers will be able to get a grant equal to 20pc of their usual earn­ings over the next six months as Bri­tain pre­pares for a harsh win­ter. But crit­ics said the re­sponse is “woe­fully in­ad­e­quate” and still treated con­trac­tors as sec­ond class ver­sus those on pay­rolls. Pre­vi­ous grants for self-em­ployed work­ers were set at 80pc and 70pc of nor­mal in­come.

An­drew Cham­ber­lain, of free­lancer trade body IPSE, said Rishi Su­nak was right to ex­tend sup­port but crit­i­cised him for fail­ing to plug “yawn­ing gaps” within the schemes, which ex­clude di­rec­tors of limited com­pa­nies and free­lancers who are on the PAYE scheme of the com­pany they con­tract for.

He said: “They have now been with­out in­come for six months and are in for a dark stretch ahead.”

Mr Su­nak an­nounced that the self­em­ployed in­come sup­port scheme, which has al­ready given more than £13bn to three mil­lion free­lancers, will be ex­tended un­til the end of the tax year. In ad­di­tion, those who file their own tax re­turns will be able to de­lay pay­ing bills for 12 months.

Mr Su­nak also an­nounced a new “jobs sup­port scheme” for work­ers in strug­gling in­dus­tries.

Tory MP Mel Stride, chair­man of the Trea­sury se­lect com­mit­tee, pre­vi­ously said he hoped the gaps in sup­port would be ironed out in the lat­est round of grants. How­ever, the cri­te­ria for the new regime re­mains un­changed.

Seb Ma­ley, of free­lancer con­sul­tancy Qdos, said the coun­try’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery will suf­fer be­cause so many work­ers are ex­cluded. Free­lancers are thought to con­trib­ute around £300bn to the econ­omy each year.

The pan­demic has al­ready taken a toll, with more than a quar­ter of a mil­lion self-em­ployed work­ers giv­ing up on the “free­lancer dream” and re­turn­ing to em­ploy­ment over the sum­mer.

A govern­ment spokesman said: “Our sup­port for the self-em­ployed has been one of the most gen­er­ous in the world. And this is con­tin­u­ing, with mil­lions now able to ben­e­fit from the ex­ten­sion right through to April next year.

“Those who do not qual­ify will still be able to ac­cess our wide range of other sup­port – in­clud­ing in­come tax de­fer­rals, busi­ness rates re­lief, grants and bounce back loans.”

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