Self-em­ployed strug­gle to stay work­ing

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Mattha Busby ▲

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

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