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UK Music calls for extension of UK government’s support for self-employed

By and | Published on Friday 29 May 2020

UK Music

The acting CEO of cross-sector trade group UK Music, Tom Kiehl, has called on the UK government to extend its financial support for the self-employed as the COVID-19 crisis continues, as it has for those in traditional employment.

Earlier this month Chancellor Rishi Sunak extended to the end of October the furlough scheme that supports employees unable to work as a result of the COVID-19 shutdown. However, no such announcement has been made regarding the similar support scheme for the self-employed, which is due to come to an end this Sunday.

The music industry – and wider creative sector – has an unusually high number of freelance and self-employed workers. Which is why, when the COVID-19 shutdown began, music industry organisations were so vocal in calling for financial support for the self-employed.

“The community of self-employed workers in the music industry are a critical part of our sector’s ecosystem and play a huge part in the £5.2 billion annual contribution music makes to the economy”, Kiehl restated yesterday, adding: “The government must not leave the self-employed swinging in the wind when it comes to financial support”.

“The Chancellor needs to act to lift the cloud of anxiety and uncertainty facing thousands of self-employed workers that make up 72% of the music industry’s workforce”, he went on. “By Rishi Sunak’s own admission the scheme is designed to provide a lifeline to musicians but many will still not be able to work for many months to come”.

He then concluded: “I would urge the government to give self-employed workers the parity [with traditionally employed workers] they were promised when it comes to financial support from the government to help them make ends meet”.

Under the government’s self-employed income support scheme, those eligible received 80% of their average earnings over the last three years – up to £2500 per month.

However, that scheme only ever applied to those formally registered as sole traders with the UK tax authorities. Freelancers who structure their businesses in different ways didn’t qualify, and – despite much further campaigning on behalf of those people – no similar scheme was ever announced by the government.

There are other gaps in the government’s COVID-19 support schemes too, of course – and if the freelancer programme ends before the employee programme, that will be another big gap to contend with. With that in mind, a new organisation called Excluded UK has just launched that brings together everyone who has found themselves in a position where none of the government’s COVID-19 support programmes apply.

The new organisation states: “As inadequacies in government responses to COVID-19 continue to come to light, Excluded UK will seek to play a crucial role in facilitating support and assistance to individuals and businesses on multiple levels, both for now and into the future. The aim of Excluded UK is to build a stronger platform, raise awareness, lobby for support, raise funds for legal challenges and awareness activities, and to help enable the changes that are needed for the excluded”.