As the coronavirus pandemic grips Britain, UK trade bodies are calling on the government to do more to protect freelance and self-employed workers from the crisis’ economic fallout.
The government yesterday announced an unprecedented set of further measures to help shore up the economy, pledging to pay 80% of wages for employees who are not working, up to £2,500 per month.
But there was little in the package for the army of self-employed and freelance workers that support the music industry, while the decision to formally close all pubs, restaurants, nightclubs and venues will heap further pressure on an already devastated live sector.
UK Music acting CEO Tom Kiehl led the calls for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak to do more.
“While we welcome the much-needed help for those who are traditionally employed, the Government’s proposals fall far short of the lifeline needed by the self-employed in the music industry and creative sector,” said Kiehl.
“The government should urgently look at setting up a Temporary Income Protection Fund for self-employed workers and freelancers. The self-employed make up around 72% of the music industry and are a vital part of its success.
“They should be offered the same help as other workers if they cannot work due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many self-employed are facing an immensely difficult time and are worried about putting food on the table, paying their rent or mortgage and other bills.
“The government has talked about doing the right thing. It must now do the right thing and help protect the self-employed and freelancers.”
Paul Pacifico, CEO of The Association of Independent Music, also weighed in.
“While we welcome the latest measures the government has announced today, including wage subsidies that will be a huge relief for many British SMEs having to make cutbacks at this time, there is one crucial part of the workforce which is still left high and dry,” he said. “Today we are urging the Chancellor – Rishi, please do not ‘wash your hands’ of the self-employed. The UK economy benefits substantially from over five million self-employed and freelance workers, who also make up a massive 70% of the UK music industry.
“Many have lost all sources of income completely through this crisis, have been effectively overlooked and are now facing economic strife as a result. We are calling on the government to extend the same support as payroll employees have been promised; a lifeline to compensate self-employed workers with up to 80% of their average earnings over the past three years, if necessary with a cap of £2,500 a month.
“This could be as easily administered by HMRC as it will be for payroll employees. The self-employed have the same bills to pay as the rest of the nation’s workers and contribute just as much. They deserve the same support.”
Caroline Norbury, CEO of the Creative Industries Federation, said the government had “failed to stand by freelancers and self employed workers - causing worry and division at this difficult time”.
“The Chancellor’s announcement that the government will pay wages up to 80% for businesses will be very much welcomed by the UK’s creative businesses, many of whom have had to shut their doors overnight,” Norbury added. “However, this creates a worrying inequity between those who now have their income secured and the UK’s five million self-employed workers and freelancers who are left despondent.
“A third of the creative workforce is freelance. Our snap poll on Twitter this week showed that over 50% of these freelancers have already had 100% of their work cancelled due to Covid-19. The £94.25 per week offered in Universal Credit does not come anywhere near to compensating them for their income loss, nor is it close to the amount they can reasonably be expected to live off.
“We stand by all of the creative industries and, at this challenging time, it’s vital the government stands by our self-employed and freelancers, and mirrors the strong measures put in place for the UK’s employed workforce.”
AIM has launched a petition to create a Temporary Income Protection Fund for freelancers and self-employed workers. The petition can be accessed here.