Dance teachers, tutors, personal trainers, cleaners: if you're part of the five million-strong cohort of self-employed people in the UK, you'll know that you're part of a dynamic, vital group.
But amid the coronavirus pandemic, you've likely felt your health fears calcify with a shell of financial anxiety. While the country is asked to go into lockdown, so work is cancelled and shifts are pulled. Layer on the school closures, and, if you're a parent, you might have had to sacrifice the work you did have on to take on the mantle of maths/ English/ art/ PE co-ordinator.
Self-employed and coronavirus: what's the deal?
While last week the UK government announced a package to help out salaried workers – pledging to pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month to businesses, to stop staff from being laid off – there was nothing offered to keep those working for themselves afloat. As such, freelancers and contractors whose work disappears due to coronavirus were only entitled to benefits at the level of statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week). The upshot? Fiery calls for protection to be put in place for people who are not on PAYE.
Some of these have come via workplace campaigns platform, Organise. "It's incredible to see more than 60,000 freelancers and self-employed workers are coming together on Organise to demand proper support from the government. It's rare to see everyone from gig-economy workers to coders facing the same issues and teaming up to change things," says Nat Whalley, CEO of the organisation.
"From self-employed cleaners to lighting engineers, these essential tax payers are asking for income support just like the chancellor is giving to the traditionally employed. It’s only fair that proper support is given to freelance and self-employed workers, too."
The good news is, Rishi Sunak has just released his package for the freelance demographic via BBC News.
Self-employed and coronavirus: 9 things to know
1/ Your package will be based on your earnings
Sunak has shared that your package will be calculated by assessing your income based on your profits and revenues.
2/ This will cover up to 80 per cent of your income
You will be paid a total of 80 per cent of your average monthly income, up to a limit of £2,500 a month. So it's the same percentage of income as your salaried counterparts.
3/ The scheme will last at least 3 months
And longer, if it turns out to be necessary, Sunak said. (What 'necessary' looks like, we have yet to see.)
4/ It doesn't cover people who earn over £50K
The scheme is not set to cover higher earners. If you make over £50K? Then this one does not apply.
5/ You need to make most of your cash from self-employment
You'll need to be able to show that most of your money is a result of self-employment. Anyone with a side hustle that's gone down the drain thanks to the pandemic will not be eligible.
6/ HMRC will get in touch with you
If you are eligible, sit tight. HMRC will get in touch with you; not the other way round. You'll then be able file your bank details, so that money can be sent to you.
7/ It's going to be up and running by June
The scheme is set to be live in June. The only option before then? The government's Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is available to the self-employed; or there is Universal Credit – although complaints have been made about volume of people trying to access this, creating a serious backlog and rendering the process 'almost impossible'.
8/ You can keep working
Being eligible for the grant doesn't mean you have to halt your hustle – so long as you have been affected by the pandemic, you can claim.
9/ You need to be able to produce a self-assessment
Only people who are already self-employed are eligible for the scheme, and you need to be able to produce a 2019 self-assessment to prove it. If you are, and you missed the deadline? There's going to be a four-week grace period, starting today, to get it in.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
According to the NHS website, the primary symptoms of coronavirus are:
- A fever
- A new, consistent cough
Other coronavirus symptoms that have been reported include:
- Tiredness or fatigue
- A headache
- Shortness of breath
- A loss of smell or taste
- Muscle pain
What should you do if you have symptoms of coronavirus?
If you have symptoms of coronavirus you should use the NHS 111 Coronavirus service online. People are being urged to only call 111 if they cannot get help online.
To avoid infecting others, do not go to a GP surgery or pharmacy if you suspect you have coronavirus.
If you need urgent medical help that you cannot get online, call 111. In an life-threatening emergency call 999 for an ambulance.
Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of the publication date. While we are attempting to keep our content as up-to-date as possible, the situation surrounding the coronavirus pandemic continues to develop rapidly, so it's possible that some information and recommendations may have changed since publishing. For any concerns and latest advice, visit the World Health Organisation. If you're in the UK, the National Health Service can also provide useful information and support, while US users can contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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