Coronavirus  

Covid-19 update for self-employed confirmed for tomorrow

Covid-19 update for self-employed confirmed for tomorrow

The government is set to announce further details on a Covid-19 package for the self-employed tomorrow, a Treasury spokesperson has confirmed. 

It comes as the prime minister faced a grilling from MPs in the House of Commons today (March 25) over delays to an emergency package for the self-employed. 

An amendment added to the Coronavirus Bill earlier this week proposed statutory self-employment pay which would cover the lower of £2,917 or 80 per cent of a self-employed person's monthly earnings, averaged over the last three years. 

The proposals will also cover freelancers, and it was previously expected the chancellor would confirm the announcements today. 

But a Treasury spokesperson has now confirmed the government would set out further details on the package tomorrow (March 25). 

Last week Rishi Sunak announced the government would cover 80 per cent of at-risk employees' salaries for three months, as part of an expansive series of measures aimed at supporting the UK economy during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Sunak labelled the move as "unprecedented in the history of the British state", but the government faced criticism over its treatment of the self-employed, which were merely promised access to universal credit.

Speaking to MPs yesterday Mr Sunak said there were "genuine practical reasons" why it was complicated to design a scheme for the self-employed comparable to that in place for employed workers.  

But the chancellor made assurances the government "absolutely" understood the situation facing the demographic and was working on a way to help the self-employed. 

During Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons today Boris Johnson faced a number of concerns raised by MPs on behalf of constituents who were "without income".

Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, warned an estimated 1.7m workers were now at risk of losing their income and his own constituents were "deeply concerned" about their jobs and families. 

Mr Blackford said: "Last Friday the self-employed were promised by the prime minister and chancellor that help was coming.

"Only yesterday the chief secretary to Treasury said 'we have not forgotten, your help is coming'.

"These are the same promises that have now been made for weeks, and yet they and we are still waiting. Can the prime minister now explain why the package for the support for the self-employed wasn’t put in place before we announced the lockdown?"

Boris Johnson replied: "As you will understand we've done a huge amount already to strengthen the safety net for everybody in this country, not just those in employment. 

"There are particular complexities about the self-employed which do need to be addressed, they are not all in the same position.

"All I can say is we are working as fast as we possibly can to get the appropriate package of support for everybody in this country." 

rachel.mortimer@ft.com and imogen.tew@ft.com

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