Coronavirus: Self-employed support package welcomed by trade groups

TRADE groups have welcomed new measures to support self-employed workers who have been financially impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Self-employed workers who earn less than £50,000 per year will be able to claim taxable grants worth 80% of their average monthly profits through a self-employed income support scheme, chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday (Thursday, March 26).

Lump sum payments – up to a maximum of £2500 per month – will be made to self-employed workers in June. Sunak said the scheme, which is open for three months, will benefit 95% of self-employed workers around the UK.

Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance, said the scheme will offer “huge comfort” to many self-employed people but won’t provide adequate support to certain groups of workers.

Crothall said: “We have been inundated with enquiries from chefs, small bed and breakfast owners and others within the industry over the past week…

“In our view, this is a fair measure to take, however we realise that for a good number of people working in the industry, for example those who split part-time employed work with self-employment and those who have only recently entered self-employment, this may not offer the desired solution.

“There will also be many who are in need of a source of income now, not all of whom will be eligible for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme therefore we would urge the UK Government to bring forward the introduction of this welcomed support scheme as soon as is possible. The process importantly, must be easy for all and speed is of the essence.”

This message was echoed by Andrew McRae, Scotland policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses. He said: “We need to vanquish the myth that those that work for themselves are universally wealthy.

“Like many of these government interventions, it will take a number of weeks for this programme to deliver. Therefore, those who qualify should try their banks for interim finance if required, while doing what they can to manage their outgoings. This will be much easier said than done, but with help on its way many of the self-employed will rest a little easier.”

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, described the new support as “critical” as she said an estimated 85% of pubs are run by independent operators who are self-employed.

McClarkin said: “Until today, the government had focussed on helping pubs and other businesses with grants and loans, business rates relief and guarantees on staff salaries, which we warmly welcomed, recognising that it would help prevent permanent pub closures and staff losses. However, it did not specifically address the threat faced by self-employed publicans, whose personal incomes had instantly dried up as a result of the forced shutdown.

“The support announced is critical. However, ongoing support from the government is still required throughout this crisis to sustain our great brewing and pub sector through this unprecedented lockdown, so that when we are through this, pubs can return to being the heart of communities up and down the country.”