Self-employed need protection – MP

Self-employed need protection – MP

25 March 2020

SELF-EMPLOYED workers must be provided with the same income protections as their full-time colleagues outlined last week by the British government, according to South Down MP Chris Hazzard, South Down MLA Colin McGrath and Baroness Margaret Ritchie.

The MP said all businesses were coming under huge pressure as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with the self-employed, those who work in the so-called gig economy and workers on precarious flexible contracts particularly vulnerable at this time. 

Mr Hazzard said the measures to protect incomes introduced by Chancellor Riki Sunak were welcome.

But the MP revealed that he has been contacted by many people who are self-employed,

“I am calling for the protections to be extended to the self employed so that they receive 80 per cent of salary based on last year’s earnings up to a value of £2,500 per month,” said Mr Hazzard.

“My Sinn Fein party colleague and finance minister Conor Murphy will be writing to the Chancellor calling for this measure to be introduced at the same time as the protections come into place for other workers.”

Mr Hazzard added: “Many self employed people provide key services that are required to keep our society working. They should receive the same support and protections as others.”

Mr McGrath said the self-employed must not be left behind in the current crisis and require to be offered help and assistance.

He said there have been many announcements from the Chancellor to help mitigate against the economic crisis, with good news for employees in the private sector and a grant for businesses, there has been no mention of any assistance for the self-employed sector. 

“These are the people who step up and take the personal risk to open their company or their business and the irony now is that their staff cannot be paid up to 80% of their salary and the boss has to go on to Universal Credit. This is an untenable situation,” the MLAS declared.

“I have been calling for better and improved help and assistance for the self-employed. I hope that this will happen this week so that there can be solace to the self-employed and an affirmation that this is merit and help to the self-employed sector.”

Baroness Ritchie said the Chancellor had provided emergency budget announcements providing monies for many sectors of society, with, the self employed only receiving a small margin of relief with being able to apply for Universal Credit paid equivalent to the rate of statutory sick pay. 

She said that clearly those who are self employed, freelancers and on zero hours contracts are the backbone of the economy and society across Co Down.

“The enhanced level of Universal Credit announced last week is still inadequate,” continued Ms Ritchie.

“As many of the self- employed have young families, they need a financial cushion to be provided immediately. Therefore, I have made representations over the weekend to the Chancellor and Stormont economy minister Diane Dodds to make a special financial package available to those who are unemployed.”

Baroness Ritchie added: “I hope the Chancellor will be able to make that provision at some stage early this week.”