| 15.8°C Belfast

Coronavirus: Self-employed workers left wondering how to cover bills until June

Despite the Chancellor announcing new measures to help self-employed and freelancers, many were concerned by how long they would have to wait to claim

Close

Louise and Zak Barina from London have both lost their incomes due to the coronavirus (Louise Barina/PA)

Louise and Zak Barina from London have both lost their incomes due to the coronavirus (Louise Barina/PA)

Louise and Zak Barina from London have both lost their incomes due to the coronavirus (Louise Barina/PA)

Self-employed workers have asked Rishi Sunak to explain how they will pay their bills for the next three months after the Chancellor announced that new coronavirus support measures would only be claimable from June.

While many welcomed the decision to match the 80% of earnings offered to PAYE employees, several feared they would not be able to manage on Universal Credit payments of £94.25 in the coming months.

Keri Hudson, 30, a social media consultant from Bristol, told the PA news agency it was “great” that parity of payment had been ensured for most self-employed workers, but added: “June? Seriously?

“It’s ridiculous. It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people. And I can’t see why a payment system built into the Self Assessment website would take two months to create.

“I’m sure there are many out-of-work freelance web developers that would be happy to help if the Government are low on resource.”

Coronavirus
Chancellor Rishi Sunak speaks during a media briefing (PA)

She added: “It doesn’t really make sense to base the payout on the money a business made as far back as 2016. Surely it should just be based on the 19/20 return – that’s a true reflection of lost income.”

Louise Barina, a television production manager who lives in London with her husband Zak, who works for an amateur football organisation, said both of them had lost work at the virus. She added: “After having spoken to our landlord, he has outright said no, that we can’t get a delay on our rent.

“In terms of the payment coming in June, that’s really problematic for us as that’s obviously three months of payment where we need to find the money for that.”

Iain Jackson and Sally McCleery
Personal trainer Iain Jackson and casting director Sally McCleery have both seen their incomes hit (Sally McCleery/PA)

Casting director Sally McCleery, from Brighton, told PA: “Eighty percent is quite generous and we can live on that… our expenses are fairly low and we can live here and not spend too much money.”

But she added she and her partner Iain Jackson, a personal trainer who had also lost almost his entire income,  were “going to have to really watch the pennies until June”.

That's the impression I got, that any relief we get now they are going to sting us later - nothing comes for free, does it?Iain Jackson, personal trainer

Others expressed concern that those who registered as self employed after March 2019 would not be able to claim the payments at all.

Oli, 31, a construction worker from London with a two-year-old child, said he would have to claim Universal Credit as he had become registered as self employed after the cut-off.

He said: “It’s going to be a case of waiting it out and not letting personal pride get in the way of claiming any of the other benefits for the unemployed.

“I have never claimed or used any Government handouts ever and had a bit of pride about that.”

And there were also fears about how long it would take for self-employed workers and freelancers to recover financially after the crisis – and the Government support – had gone.

Mr Jackson said that while several of his fitness clients had generously paid him for future appointments, that only meant that he would end up without income when he eventually returned to training.

“It’s helpful that we don’t have to pay our tax bill in July but obviously it’s not going to help in the long run as we’ll just have more tax to pay in January,” Ms McCleery added.

Mr Jackson added: “That’s the impression I got, that any relief we get now they are going to sting us later. Our tax percentage will go up, I’m guessing – that’s how they’re going to claw the money back. Nothing comes for free does it?”

Meanwhile, Ms Hudson said she was “not sure” if she’d be able to rebuild her business after the losses she faced due to the outbreak.

“I think a lot of us will have to pick ourselves up and see if there’s still demand. For example, I partner with a few co-working spaces to deliver training workshops – who knows whether they’ll survive this with no tenants paying rent. It’s just a waiting game really!”

PA