I’ve worked in a number of self-employed roles over the years. I was running a pub with my husband when Covid hit. On the third anniversary of taking over the pub, we had to close for lockdown. We should have been celebrating the hard work it took to build a successful business, but instead we closed the door.
The support we received from the government was woeful. Grants were not enough to cover our costs and there was no pressure placed on my landlords to offer reasonable terms and help us in the way that we helped our staff through topping up their furlough payments.
We are still to get any justice and have any arbitrations over rent debt. Some publicans have been discriminated against and offered unsustainable debt or returning to servitude under the beer tie. The government still refuses to listen to us and end the injustices we face.
It was not just the economic support that was woeful. We were under extreme pressure to operate a safe business for staff and customers. Yet when I tried to set up meetings with public health officials and local pubs and businesses so we should ask questions about mitigating risks, I was told it was not possible. We were alone in everything we did.
Sick pay has been a major issue throughout. There was no help when my husband caught Covid. I worked all the hours I was physically able to so we could keep things going while he isolated. When he was finally allowed out of isolation he returned to work only to collapse behind the bar. I had no choice but to help him upstairs and continue his shift for him. People are working on a knife edge and have no option but to work even if they are exhausted.
Our tenancy is due for renewal in April 2022. Our landlord told us that the rent would be going up by £32k. Just as we were beginning to get things together, we will be forced to leave our business and our home.
Small business owners are working people who deserve support and justice. When it goes wrong, we need as much help and support as any other working person. The pandemic has shown that it just does not exist. Community’s approach to recognising all working people regardless of tax or employment status to campaign for our needs strengthens us, and gives hope that we can find the help we need.