Report calls for urgent support for self employed

The interim report of a cross-party inquiry commissioned by the Prospect union warns of a “stampede away” from self-employment without better support.

Woman leans on a table looking depressed

 

Just over a third of self employed workers are confident about continuing in self employment due to their experience during the pandemic, according to the interim findings of a cross-party commission.

The interim report of the inquiry on the Future Self Employment, commissioned by the union Prospect and supported by Community union and the Federation of Small Businesses, has found that over 50% of self-employed workers lost 60-100% of their household income in 2020; 64% were less likely or unsure if they wanted to continue to be self employed in the future; 73% had been unable to access support such as Universal Credit; and 88% did not believe that support for the self employed in the pandemic had been commensurate with their tax contribution.

The interim report of the inquiry by independent experts, politicians, union and industry leaders warns of a “stampede” away from self-employment and calls for the immediate introduction of a Self Employment Stabilisation Scheme (SASS) to complement and build on the existing Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and close existing gaps in the SEISS scheme, for instance, the lack of support for the newly self employed.

It also calls for the Government to keep the 80% SEISS rate for the fourth round of the SEISS in the new year; to commit to allowing those who submit tax returns in Jan 2021 to access the fourth round of SEISS; to change the 50% threshold and the £50k threshold in the SEISS; to introduce a Directors Income Support Scheme; to permanently suspend the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit, pending a review; to introduce a Freelancers Fund to support employers in sectors with large freelance workforces (such as the creative industries) to take on freelance workers; and to implement a Kickstarter loans scheme to support those wishing to restart their business during to the pandemic.

The full inquiry findings will be published in February. They are based on two oral evidence sessions with expert witnesses, who are key stakeholders in self-employment policy, and written evidence submissions from its expert panelists, witnesses, a range of stake-holding cross-industry organisations and trade unions which collectively represent over 30,000 self-employed and freelance workers.

Prospect general secretary Mike Clancy, who commissioned the inquiry, said: “The news that barely a third of all self-employed and freelance workers are confident they want to continue to work in this way should be a massive wake-up call to the government.

“These workers have powered our economy in recent years and this flexible workforce were lauded by ministers as key to our prosperity. But the way they have been treated in this pandemic is disgraceful and will have consequences for our ability to recover in 2021 in beyond.

“In the long term we need fundamental changes in how these workers are treated. For now, the government has to listen immediately to this Inquiry and introduce a scheme to halt the stampede away from self-employment that that their policies are causing.”

Meanwhile, new figures from the Insolvency Service suggest the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of April may have slowed the rate of redundancies across the UK.

The service says 36,700 redundancies were proposed in November, the lowest monthly figure since lockdown restrictions were introduced in March.

The November total is around a fifth of the peak, with 156,000 redundancies in June. December’s total, however, will likely include up to 25,000 job losses resulting from the collapse of Debenhams and Arcadia if the retailers are unable to find buyers.



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