Several economists, academics and directors of research institutions from around the world have written to Rishi Sunak, the U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, asking the government to extend support to the self-employed.
In a letter published in The Times newspaper on Monday, the signatories wrote: “We welcome the support for the employed, but the self-employed have been left out in the cold.”
In unprecedented economic measures announced March 20, Sunak said the U.K. government would pay up to 80% of people’s wages, with a maximum of £2,500 ($2,930) per month. But this applies only to those on payrolls and does not extend to freelancers or the self-employed that constitute the vast majority of the creative industries in the U.K.
Under the new measures, freelancers will have access to an amount equalling that of payroll employees’ statutory sick pay, and can pay tax at a later date, but there is no 80% income guarantee. Industry unions Bectu and Equity have decried the lack of measures.
The letter asks that the Chancellor’s job retention scheme must mandate against any layoffs, and that to receive wage subsidies, companies must keep all staff on payroll. It also asks means testing to be removed for the underemployed or unemployed to access the U.K.’s Universal Credit scheme quicker.
The Universal Credit scheme is a monthly payment by the U.K. government for the unemployed or those with low incomes. Single people under the age of 25 can get up to $292 a month, singles over 25 $368, couples under 25 $458 (for both), and couples over 25 $578.
Parents needing help with childcare costs can apply for 85% of costs, up to $749, or $1,284 for two or more children. Universal Credit can also help with some housing costs, decided on an individual basis.
“Economic collapses become increasingly difficult to arrest if they are allowed to continue unabated,” the letter states. “There is a real risk that this recession could turn into a depression. The government must move decisively to get cash into the hands of households and firms before the economic dominoes start to fall.”
Signatories are from a range of institutions, including King’s College, London, Tax Justice U.K., European University Institute, U.K. Women’s Budget Group, Universities of London, Salento, Oxford, Cambridge, Manitoba, Rhode Island, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, the London School of Economics and the Sorbonne.
Meanwhile, U.K. entertainment union Bectu has asked all creative freelancers to write to their member of parliament and the treasury requesting urgent additional financial support towards their income during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Bectu will be making a submission to the treasury select committee about why freelancers are falling through the net,” union head Philippa Childs said. “We will also be working with other organizations with similar concerns to continue pushing for appropriate financial protection during these unprecedented times.”