Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves calls on Government support for self-employed workers

24 March 2020

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves has called on PM Boris Johnson to deliver an urgent package of measures to help the 340,900 self-employed workers across Yorkshire and the Humber hit by the impact of coronavirus.

Her intervention comes as thousands of self-employed and freelance workers struggle to survive as a result of the massive economic shock triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Ms Reeves welcomed the measures announced last Friday by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help traditionally employed workers. 

But she warned that many self-employed workers were left “acutely exposed” and would not be able to make ends meet on universal credit of just £94.25 a week. 

In Leeds alone, there are 52,000 self-employed workers, according to the latest official data from the Office for National Statistics.

Ms Reeves called on the PM and Chancellor to establish an income protection scheme for the self-employed to give them similar help to that already offered to other workers. 

She also called for a major increase in the current “meagre” level of statutory sick pay (SSP) which currently stands at just £94.25 a week. 

Ms Reeves said: 

“There are still huge gaps in the Government’s plans to help people whose income has taken a massive hit due to coronavirus, especially the five million self-employed workers who feel acutely exposed.

“At present, they can only get just £94.25 a week in sick pay as they are not covered by the Government’s income replacement scheme.  However, an employee earning £25,000 a year on payroll could get £20,000 through the Government help on offer. 

“It is unfair and unjust that the self-employed are left swinging in the wind  and unable to benefit from the assistance available to other workers and to self-employed workers in other countries. 

“The Government must act as a matter of urgency to help the self-employed and protect their incomes.

“The Government should offer the self-employed the same kind of income protection available to other workers. 

“In Norway, a scheme similar to the one unveiled by the government here also makes provision for the self-employed and freelancers. They are entitled to the equivalent of 80% of their average pay over the past three years. We could do the same here using the tax returns to calculate what the self-employed would get.”

It’s understood the Government is looking at its options regarding self-employed people. Self-employed workers hit by coronavirus shutdown could be offered 80 per cent of their income under an emergency package to be announced on Wednesday, according to reports.

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