“People aren’t just ‘slipping through the cracks’, they are falling into the abyss.”
After losing my last writing project and experiencing numerous rejections from writing and hospitality jobs and resistance from my landlord to reduce my rent without getting into debt with them, I have become increasingly frustrated at the restrictions of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
The scheme has excluded hundreds of thousands of self-employed people, who need and equally deserve support. People aren’t just ‘slipping through the cracks’, they are falling into the abyss.
On 26th March 2020, the UK Government announced the SEISS to support self-employed individuals whose income has been negatively impacted by coronavirus. Yet hundreds of thousands of self-employed people have been excluded from government support because of the regulations they have put in place.
People in their first year of being self-employed do not qualify, because the rules dictate you must be self-employed and have submitted a tax return for the year 2018/19. People are not eligible when their self-employed is less than 50% of their income, and their PAYE work is greater.
A friend of mine has been working with almost no gaps since she was 16, supporting herself through university then working 10 to 12 hour shifts almost every day of the week in a hospitality role to enable her to move to London. Recently she was offered an opportunity as a business developer, which allowed her to leave her hospitality role but required her to register as self-employed. One month later, the company lost clients and could not pay her, but she could not be furloughed, so she was let go. After working and fairly paying tax for 7 years, she received no financial support from the government, simply down to chance. She and I and hundreds of thousands of others have lost out on funding, and are now on a frantic job hunt to be able to pay our rent.
Every year, thousands of young people and graduates join the UK workforce. Thousands more change their careers. It is completely unfair to penalise these people for their position in life on a technicality. There is no equivalent time qualification affecting employees under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Self-employed people fairly pay their taxes, make National Insurance Contributions, and contribute their services to the economy as tutors, nannies, writers, graphic designers, taxi drivers, construction workers and many more. They already experience precarious working conditions including longer hours, less pay, more worry over finances, difficulty securing work, late payments and lack of holiday pay, sick pay and employer pension contributions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it crystal clear that self-employed people lack protection. During these difficult times, it is essential that we make our voices heard. Joining Community strengthens our collective voice, the voice of the self-employed. This can help pressurise the government to provide better support for us and our businesses.
Rose is one of Community’s newest self-employed members and is already using her voice to put the pressure on the government.
“I’ve seen many business owners forced into self-employment because they work for larger organisations who see self-employed subcontractors as a cheap way to avoid paying minimum wage.”