Help announced for coronavirus-hit self employed

Self-employed and freelance workers finally received news of the government’s coronavirus support package on Thursday evening, but the Chancellor’s much-mooted bailout is set to make them wait until the beginning of June for the pay out.

Telling self-employed workers that “you have not been forgotten”, Rishi Sunak’s third appearance at the daily Downing Street press briefing focused on new support for this, until now, overlooked part of the UK workforce affected by the coronavirus crisis.

“I know that many self-employed people are deeply anxious about the support available for them… To you, I say this: You have not been forgotten. We will not let you behind. We are all in this together,” said Sunak.

Sunak’s biggest lifeline to struggling self-employed was a new self-employed income support scheme that treats these workers with the same parity as furloughed employees, under the coronavirus jobs retention scheme.  

The new scheme will pay those “who make the majority of their income from self employment” 80% of average monthly profits for the last three years up to a maximum of £2,500.

Sunak confirmed that the scheme will be open for “at least three months” but as he has done with other COVID-19 measures, he has the option to extend it if necessary.

The scheme will will have an earnings cap of £50,000 and cover 95% of self-employed workers, the Chancellor said.

In order for self employed workers to qualify for this scheme, Sunak said they must have filed a 2018/19 SA return. The government added this condition to minimise fraud, but the Chancellor admitted that they’re designing these schemes at pace and “shouldn’t let perfect be the enemy of good”.  

People who started trading in 2019/20 would need to “look at the extra support in the welfare system”, Sunak advised.

The Chancellor added that anyone who missed the 31 January SA deadline had four weeks from today to submit their tax return in order to meet scheme’s requirements.

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