The Chancellor has now announced a package of support for freelance and self-employed workers in the UK. The governments Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), a taxable grant administered by HMRC was announced on 26th March 2020.
A third of the UK’s creative and cultural workforce are self-employed - more than double the national average, and many simply saw their work disappear overnight. They were able to take no comfort from the governments financial package for employees which was announced a week earlier.
Many in the sector welcomed the additional support package for the selfemployed. The Creative Industries Federation, a membership organisation said:
"The Chancellor’s statement today is a victory for the creative industries. It is welcome that the voice of the creative sector has been heard ..."
But many have called for immediate interim support for those who simply cannot wait until the programme kicks in. The SEISS will be calculated at 80% of average monthly profits over the last three years - up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. The scheme will be backdated to the beginning of March but will not be operational until June 2020.
Whilst the full details of the scheme will only become fully understood once we see the legislation itself, at this stage we know that the scheme will only be open to those with trading profits under £50,000 and those who have filed a tax return for the 2019/19 tax year.
So the scheme does not cover workers who have recently become self-employed, seeing many thousands of workers who have recently joined the sector going without cover; they’ll simply be expected to move into the social security system. Workers will also need to demonstrate that they earn the majority of their income from their self-employment, pushing out many who are both employed and self-employed simultaneously. For those with "savings" over £16,000 of course, Universal Credit is totally unavailable.
The government have confirmed they will be proactively making contact with all those workers who are eligible to claim via the SEISS in the coming weeks, though some have expressed concerns about the extent to which that will be administrated.
Equity, the UK's foremost theatre and live performance union, is advising members to apply for Universal Credit now, regardless of their eligibility for the SEISS. They are also advising those with upward of £16,000 of savings that they may only be able to apply for support via the Business Interruptions Scheme whilst waiting for the SEISS to kick in.
As ever, the devil is the detail and the sector will need to look very carefully at the detail once it becomes fully available.