Sunday 22 March 2020 6:37 pm

Coronavirus: Government plots further support for self-employed

The government is exploring ways to provide additional help to self-employed workers amid concerns millions of Brits have been “excluded” from financial support during the coronavirus crisis.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick today said the government was looking at ways to overcome technical challenges relating to supporting self-employed people.

Read more: Coronavirus wage bailout: Government to cover 80 per cent of workers’ salaries up to £2,500

“It is more complicated for the self-employed than it is for employees…but if we need to do more, we will do it and the chancellor is keeping this under review,” he told Sky News.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced an “unprecedented” £330bn package of financial support to help shore up the UK economy during the pandemic.

As part of the plans, the government will pay up to 80 per cent of wages for employees unable to work as a result of the health crisis.

The move was welcomed by business groups, who said it would protect livelihoods, particularly for small firms.

However, there is growing pressure on the government to extend its measures to the 5m self-employed people in the British workforce.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today said the government would be “standing behind” the self-employed as the crisis intensified.

“We have been strongly urging the government not to allow the self-employed to be left high and dry, and it is welcome to hear that the prime minister is listening and offering new hope,” said Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses.

“This must now be turned urgently into practical and easily accessible support. Time is now running out.”

Cherry also called on banks to “play their part” by passing on access to finance for struggling people once billions of pounds of loan guarantees come into effect tomorrow.

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Ministers must now also ramp up support for the self-employed, many of whom have seen their livelihoods vanish in the blink of an eye.

Read more: Coronavirus: Boris Johnson tells 1.5m Britons to isolate for 12 weeks

“Chambers across the UK are hearing from thousands of sole traders, for whom last week’s measures offer little reassurance.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn today said he had written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for greater help for the self-employed and a rise in statutory sick pay and welfare payments.