As Europe continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak is set to announce a multi-billion pound rescue package to protect Britain’s five million self-employed workers after he promised to cover 80 per cent of laid-off workers’ incomes, as reported on Monday.
The Guardian reports, on Friday, Sunak said self-employed workers could access £94.25 a week in universal credit, but he gave a far more generous deal to employees of 80% of salaries, capped at £2,500 per month. He is being lobbied to go further in coming days or risk public health by incentivising self-employed taxi-drivers, couriers and other gig economy workers and zero-hours contractors to keep working while ill.
Following criticism that the self-employed were not receiving a similar level of support, the Treasury spent the weekend drawing up the new package.
Amid mounting pressure, more than 2,000 musicians on Sunday wrote to the Chancellor warning that the outbreak, which has killed 281 people and infected nearly 6,000 others, has resulted in the “complete shutdown of our places of work”.
The British Chamber of Commerce on Saturday night warned that sole traders across the country were seeing their livelihoods “vanish in the blink of an eye”. In addition to the workers’ bailout, the airline industry, on the brink of disaster due to grounded flights, may benefit from a separate deal.
According to The Guardian, the move comes as a survey conducted on Wednesday and Thursday showed 47% of the self-employed and 51% in “atypical” work, such as those on zero-hours contracts, would feel obliged to work even if they had the virus.