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Chancellor matches staff wage subsidies for self-employed

Published:  26 March, 2020

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that the government will cover the wages of self-employed workers up to £2,500 a month – matching what was offered to staff employees last week.

“The government will pay self-employed people who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus, a taxable grant, worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last three years up to £2,500 a month. This scheme will be open to people across the UK for three months and I will extend it for longer if necessary,” Sunak said.

These measures, which match the amount given to furloughed employees, will “Stand as one of the most significant interventions in the history of the British state and indeed of any state anywhere in the world”, Sunak said.

The grants will be available from the beginning of June.

Though there is a potentially challenging time lag, the measures will be some relief for the 5.1 million people in the UK that are self-employed, and who were concerned the government measures would not go as far with self-employment subsidies as it did with those for staff workers. 

In the trade, self-employed workers include educators and consultants, along with freelance writers (including those contributing to Harpers and our sister titles).

Addressing concerns that some self-employed workers might fall outside the grant parameters, Sunak said “The scheme will cover 95% of self employed people who make a majority of their earnings from self employment”.

The scheme will be open to anyone with average profits of £50k or less and the payment will be based on average trading profits form tax returns for 2016-19, so will not include newly self-employed workers. 

He also said putting together an aid package for the self-employed is “operationally complicated” and that the government may not be able to save “every job and every business".

“We will be up and running by the beginning of June, hopefully faster, though I don’t want to say we will achieve this because it is operationally complicated.

“There is no doubt we have challenging times ahead, and we will not be able to save every job and business. But we will emerge on the other side stronger and more united.”

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