Coronavirus: Chancellor to unveil financial aid for self-employed

Business / Thu 26th Mar 2020 at 08:19am

SELF-employed workers facing financial difficulties as a result of coronavirus are set to be offered a package of support from the government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak will unveil the measures later.

He set out plans for 80% wage subsidies for staff kept on by employers last week – and the PM has said he wants similar protection for freelancers.

However, Boris Johnson added he could not promise the UK would beat the virus “without any kind of hardship at all”.

The total number of people in the UK to die with Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, has reached 465.

Mr Sunak said last week that the government would cover wages of up to £2,500 a month for staff being kept on by their employer, as part of “unprecedented” measures to prevent workers being laid off.

The chancellor later said drawing up plans to help self-employed people had proved “incredibly complicated”.

Dr Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the same programme: “For many people that have seen their businesses disappear in the blink of an eye, things like statutory sick pay or universal credit just isn’t enough. Their custom has literally evaporated overnight.”

He also argued the case for the UK following a similar route to Denmark or Norway, which try to replace up to 80% of recent earnings for self-employed people: “The way you can do that is by looking back at recent tax returns and filings to make sure you aren’t under-paying or over-paying an individual.”

“It doesn’t need to be perfect – we just need a system in place to get help to some of these businesses.

BBC Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt said all the indications from talking to ministers and Conservative MPs were that the chancellor would match the 80% salary support given to PAYE employees.

He said one minister said the reason why it had taken so long was because it was fiendishly complicated but “when this chancellor acts, he acts big”.

BBC business editor Simon Jack said calculating a support wage for the self-employed was so difficult because their income could be lumpy, irregular and intermittent.

Government sources said they had struggled to find a way to avoid paying people who do not need help.

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