SEISS: Self-employed left 'undermined' as extended support is called for ahead of Brexit

SEISS is designed to provide grants to self-employed individuals who have had their business impacted by coronavirus. However, the rules on who qualifies can be confounding and around three million self-employed workers are unable to access any government support.

On an industry basis, the number of people working in the biggest solo self-employed occupational group, construction and building trades, dropped by eight percent to 405,000. Road transport driver numbers fell by 20 percent to 261,000 and agricultural and related trades occupational numbers fell by 18 percent to 175,000.

There were also sharp declines seen across a number of public sector professionals (29 percent).

With all of these negative results, Derek Cribb, the CEO of IPSE, reiterated his organisation’s calls for the government to extend further support and fix issues within SEISS: “Our annual review of the self-employed landscape shows that 2020 has left it pockmarked and scarred, with hundreds of thousands dropping out of self-employment and into the benefits system.

“As our report shows, the impact has been uneven, with particular groups such as young men, disabled freelancers and people in less skilled self-employed work being much harder hit than others.

“Across the industries, too, we see a very uneven picture, with construction workers, road transport drivers and agricultural trades bearing the brunt of the damage.

“However, aside from a smattering of positive stories, there has been decline right across the solo self-employed sector.

“This is especially worrying to see now because historically, it has always been the self-employed who have driven the economy in hard times, using their flexible skills to kickstart businesses and new projects.

“As with so many issues, however, 2020 has proved different. The circumstances of lockdown two and the gaps in support for the self-employed have left the sector undermined and diminished.

Derek concluded: “We fear, too, for the future: many self-employed now face not only many more months without support, but also the economic disruption and confusion of Brexit.

“We urge the government to take steps to fix the damage to the self-employed sector, both by looking again at support for excluded groups and also by providing more certainty and guidance to the sector on Brexit.

“We are also calling for the government to create a Freelancer Commissioner post to act as a long-term champion of the interests of the UK’s self-employed.”

As it stands, the UK will be leaving the EU on December 31 with or without a deal and SEISS can be utilised into April 2021.

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