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Coronavirus and freelancers: “If I become ill, I’ll have to work.”

Working as a freelancer or contractor in the UK? You may find this interesting. 

Petition: Include Self-employed in Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) during Coronavirus. It’s had over 65,000 signatures so far. If it hits 100,000, it will be considered for debate in parliament. I’ve signed it and shared.

Self-isolating employees can access sick pay from the first day of being off if they earn enough, but it’s not clear if this will be extended to those on low incomes, zero-hours contracts and the self-employed if a pandemic hit the UK. 

Freelancers make up 15% of the UK workforce, and the majority of us aren’t entitled to any sick pay. So, we rely on our savings. We need to pay bills and put food on the table like everyone else so most of us will carry on going to work, sick or not, which raises the risk of spreading the virus further. 

As the petition points out, “4.8 million people are registered self-employed in the UK (2017 figures from the Office of National Statistics so this figure is probably higher). “It would be easy enough to work out what each person is entitled to based on their tax returns.” 

Good to see trade union action spurring this on. On March 4, Francis O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), called on the government to make SSP available to all workers. “Unless we sort out our sick pay rules and make them fair, many workers are going to face that invidious choice of do they pay their bills, put food on the table, or do they follow government health advice to self-isolate if they’ve got symptoms? No one should be out of pocket for doing the right thing.” The National Union of Journalists (NUJ London Freelance Branch) has also written about it here

And Lisa Nandy (my favourite Labour candidate) in The Guardian today calling for an extension to the Brexit transition period because of the coronavirus. “Businesses trading with the EU do not know what terms they will be trading on in 10 months. Add to this the falling demand and disruption created by the coronavirus, and it is reasonable to expect many businesses will not survive.” Which means more stress for the freelancers who work for them.

She has also suggested extending SSP to avoid a ‘public health disaster’ waiting to happen if self-employed people and those working in the gig economy can’t afford to self-isolate. 

Please sign it and share! 

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🍌 on Unsplash

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