Tuesday 24 March 2020 1:24 pm

Rishi Sunak: 'Incredibly complicated' to help self-employed during coronavirus outbreak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the government will unveil measures to support the self-employed but said it was very difficult to design support schemes for those not employed by companies.

Sunak said he could not commit to a timeframe for the measures, however, as pressure rises on the chancellor to do more to support those who do not have regular waged work.

Read more: Coronavirus to hit UK economy harder than financial crisis

The government has launched an unprecedented package of measures to support the economy during the coronavirus outbreak as businesses close and consumer demand slumps due to containment measures.

It will lend £330bn to businesses and will pay 80 per cent of the salaries of workers who would otherwise be laid off.

Yet Sunak has come under increasing pressure to do more to support those on zero-hours contracts, gig economy workers and the self-employed.

During chancellors’ questions in parliament today Sunak said: “There are genuine practical and principle reasons why it is incredibly complicated to design an analogous scheme to the one that we have for employed workers.”

“The ability for the government to distinguish between these people, based on tax returns that are over a year and a half out of date, poses some very significant challenges in terms of fairness and affordability.”

Following Sunak’s comments, Treasury Committee chair Mel Stride said more action is needed to help the self employed, who total about 5m people in the UK.

Read more: Coronavirus: Government plots further support for self-employed

Stride said his committee, which is a parliamentary body that scrutinises the Treasury, had received “over 14,000 responses, mostly on issues relating to self-employment, from people who work in a wide variety of professions, including childminders, taxi drivers and hairdressers”.

He added: “This is clearly an area where further action is needed by the government.”