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Rishi Sunak under pressure to underwrite self-employed workers

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
There are an estimated 5 million self-employed workers in the UK

There is growing concern the financial bailout announced by the chancellor last week doesn’t go nearly far enough in addressing the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in the UK.

Much of the concern centers around Britain’s army of self-employed workers who are being left to fend for themselves as they face the prospect of financial ruin in the wake of the rapid spread of the deadly COVID-19 disease.

Veteran Tory MP, David Davis, has led calls for an intensification of the chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s rescue package for the British economy.

Davis has claimed the economy could suffer a near “fatal seizure” if Britain’s five million self-employed workers are not protected from the economic fallout of the crisis.

Davis’s intervention follows the chancellor Sunak’s announcement that the government will cover 80 percent – and up to £2,500 – of workers’ wages, as long their employers keep them on the payroll whilst the economy grinds to a halt.

Davis’s call has resonated far and wide amongst the country’s trade unions, with Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress (which represents the majority of the trade unions in England and Wales), claiming that the lack of state intervention “will cause real hardship [to the self-employed] unless we get to grips with it”.

The extraordinary (and possibly unprecedented) fact that there is near-perfect alignment between a senior Tory MP and a trades union leader speaks to the topsy-turvy political conditions created by the coronavirus crisis.  

However, despite the growing political consensus to extend financial protective measures to the self-employed, the government appears reluctant to embrace such measures.

Treasury minister, Stephen Barclay, says it would be “operationally hard” to protect “self-employed incomes”.

Barclay claims the self-employed sector is already being helped by the chancellor’s broader financial rescue program, notably the deferral of self-assessment tax requirements, payment holidays for mortgage payers and the overall strengthening of the welfare state.  






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