The Community trade union has welcomed a report by the Treasury Select Committee that echoes its calls for the government to close gaps in self-employed support and for employees who have not qualified for help.
The self-employed and freelancers’ trade union has provided the Treasury with numerous solutions to plug the gaps outlined in the report.
The cross-party committee of MPs looked at both the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and the Job Retention Scheme – the two major support programmes implemented by the government to support workers through the coronavirus crisis.
The MPs unanimously endorsed a number of recommendations calling on government to widen the people who are eligible for both schemes.
Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary of Community, said:
“Community has been calling for action to support the self-employed for months and we have offered lots of practical suggestions as to how the scheme could be improved. Many of our members have told us that they have not qualified for any help from the government’s scheme and are suffering real financial hardship as a result. They feel like the forgotten self-employed.
“We welcome the fact that MPs are joining us in pushing the Chancellor to live up to doing ‘whatever it takes’ to support people through this crisis.
“The government must look at urgently implementing the recommendations in this report. Too many working people are in devastating circumstances and there should be no further delay to getting them the help they need.
“Similarly, people who’ve fallen outside the Job Retention Scheme, simply because they started a new job, should also be supported.
“The Government must also close the gaps in support for other groups of self-employed people who have so far missed out on support and been treated unfairly including; those who took parental leave and those whose self-employed income makes up less than half of their income.”
The inquiry has identified the following key concerns and made a series of recommendations for how the Government can assist these people:
Those newly in employment: Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering financial hardship through no fault of their own, often due to unfortunate timing in starting a new job or their employer’s choice of timing in submitting paperwork to HMRC. The Government must find a way to extend eligibility criteria to all new starters, perhaps by extending the cut-off date to 31 March, or by accepting alternative forms of evidence of employment.
Those newly self-employed: Many people who have started a business in the last year don’t qualify for support from the SEISS as they cannot fulfil the eligibility criteria. The Government should undertake an urgent review to see how it can extend support to this group of people.
Those self-employed with annual trading profits in excess of £50,000: Hundreds of thousands of people are potentially suffering hardship because of the arbitrary £50,000 cut-off in the SEISS. The Government should remove the £50,000 cap and allow those with profits just over this cap access to some financial support, up to £2,500 a month.
Directors of limited companies who take a large part of their income in dividends: The Government has failed to take action to help the hundreds of thousands of limited company directors missing out on support because they pay themselves in dividends. The Government must find a way to support these individuals. We urge implementation of a solution whereby HMRC requests additional information about the proportion of dividends that have come from company profits and from other sources, and requires self-certification by the applicant.
Freelancers or those on short term contracts: In industries such as television and theatre, where short-term PAYE contracts are the norm, many workers are not entitled to support under the CJRS or SEISS. This cannot be right. The Government should give this group access to financial support that equates to 80 per cent of their average monthly income, up to a total of £2,500 per month.