Union work paying off

For freelances

THE NUJ continues to push to close the gaps in government support for workers affected by covid-19. Some governments listen.

On 30 April the Scottish government announced a £100m package of additional grant support for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) and newly self-employed people. Three funds administered by local authorities and Scotland's enterprise agencies to begin paying out grants in May. They include:

  • a £34 million hardship fund for the newly self-employed;
  • a £20 million fund for small and micro enterprises in the creative, tourism and hospitality sectors; and
  • £45 million for viable, but vulnerable SMEs crucial to the Scottish economy.

Applicants can access these funds via the www.FindBusinessSupport.gov.scot website.

John Toner, NUJ Scottish national organiser, said: "when times are tough, freelances tend to have it tougher than most through the insecurity of their working relationships. We welcome all the support from governments, but I am particularly pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to trades unions and other bodies. The support for newly self-employed people is something that we have pushed for."

Pamela Morton, NUJ national freelance organiser said: "we will continue to press the UK government for more support for the many individuals we know are falling through the gaps in the support schemes... I have seen reports that up to 2 million individuals with self-employed income are not covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and that is unacceptable. The UK government must follow the lead of the Scottish and Welsh governments which recognised the gaps and found additional funding. Employers too must not hang out to dry the freelances they normally depend upon."

On 5 May members of the House of Lords raised (virtually) oral questions reflecting the demands put by the NUJ and fellow members of the Federation of Entertainment Unions, particularly fon support for people who recently became freelance and for those who have been forced to invoice through "personal service companies" and took most of their income as dividends. The answers were equivocal.

On 12 May the Chancellor announced an extension of the furlough scheme for people paid PAYE to 31 October. The NUJ's General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet on 13 May wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling for "urgent action over the many gaps in provision" for freelances, as part of a #ForgottenFreelances campaign - see www.londonfreelance.org/fl/2005lobb.html where you will also find suggestions for letters to your MP and details of Early Day Motion 389 through which they can seek further support for the self-employed. [See also "NUJ submits legal challenge to lockdown measures" linked below.]

In an online question and answer session on 22 May the Chancellor was hesitant about extending support for freelances paying tax through self-assessment beyond the payments that should be arriving now; and he seemed to say that government databases simply couldn't cope with replacing dividend income for freelances. The NUJ continues to push.

For updates, including the Covid-19 Hardship Fund for all BBC freelances, see www.londonfreelance.org/fl/2006help.html.

29 May 2020

An uphill struggle

Financial journalist Martin Lewis Tweeted just as this was going to press:

The mood music signalled by Chancellor here isn't good in terms of a 2nd Self Employment Income Support grant. The current payout is for March - May. No news of payout beyond May. My view is there is at best only a 50-50 chance of a 2nd payout.

On 28 May the Financial Times concurred, with the headline "Aid for UK self-employed in doubt despite pledge of 'parity' with furloughing".

30 May 2020

Schemes extended

Despite the above, the Chancellor announced later on 29 May that the SEISS scheme is extended, as is the furlough scheme.