Self-employed struggle to stay working
Forced to decide between nursing mild cold and flu symptoms at home without earning anything or going out to work and paying the bills, selfemployed workers who do not receive company sick pay face a stark choice.
The 4.7 million gig economy workers in the UK have been told by the government to claim benefits, which can take five weeks to come through, if they need to self-isolate. However, this is not an option for those who live hand to mouth.
Uber drivers say they are having to stay out for longer since there is much less work because many people are not going out, and some do not trust
the ride-hailing app’s pledge to provide 14-day support to anyone who self-isolates.
Many are going out to work each day to serve the fares that they can find. “I’ll take a paracetamol if I have a temperature and pull myself up because I don’t have any other means of earning and this is my livelihood,” a 42-yearold driver in London said.
“This is not only me, but many others in the gig economy who will be doing the same. Who would pay me if I stay at home?”
Elsewhere, with schools remaining open but some teachers self-isolating, demand for supply teachers remains.
“If I don’t work, I don’t get paid,” a 48-year-old supply teacher in
north-east England said. “Asking us to self-isolate on the basis we may or may not be unwell is basically making us give up £1,000.”
Last week, the prime minister told those with even mild symptoms to stay at home. This was met with derision. “We don’t get statutory sick pay [£94 a week] or anything, we’d have to go through the benefit system,” the teacher said. “I don’t expect my electricity supplier to be understanding.
“I would not want to spread coronavirus but asking people to self-isolate even if they’re not feeling particularly unwell is unrealistic. We need something similar to compensation for jury service.”
Even those remaining well face hardship. “The majority of our shifts have been cancelled,” said a 29-yearold woman who works for an events company in Birmingham. “I’m on a zero-hours contract, like many of my co-workers, and we are effectively out of work right now.
“Concerts, football matches, exhibitions, parades. These were our livelihoods and now they’re all gone. Our industry is dying and we have no certainty when it will revive and what state it will be in.”
Bar and restaurant staff may lose their livelihoods as venues shut down