Take action and urge the government to close gaps in support for self-employed

Many people are not covered by the Chancellor's self-employed scheme & Equity is urging government to close the gaps. Join us in calling for greater provision by sending this letter to your MP. The best way to contact MPs at the moment is via Twitter and email. Find your MP's contact details at https://members.parliament.uk/members/Commons.

 

To my MP,

I am writing to you as a member of Equity, the Union for performers and creative workers, to express my support for its position on the gaps in the Chancellor’s plan for the self-employed.

Equity has welcomed the package of support for the self-employed announced last week, and hope that it will benefit many in the industry. However, we are concerned about those workers who are not covered by these measures and how the Government will cover the gap until support is made available in June (two months later than the Job Retention Scheme.

I urge Government to ensure no one falls through the gaps and relief is available in the interim, either by speeding up the process for applying for Universal Credit and ending the five-week wait or via an alternative method such as an interim payment from HMRC.

I ask that the following gaps in provision are given further attention.

Self-employed support scheme:

  1. Parents and Carers: Creative workers who have had recent gaps in their earnings because of pregnancy or caring responsibilities, that unfairly brings down their average taxable monthly profits.

Possible solution: Could the scheme incorporate a declaration for those with gaps in income to exclude one of the last 3 years of self-assessments to account for maternity/parental/caring responsibilities?

2. Workers who fall below the 50% of self-employed income threshold: We have identified a number of performers and creative workers who do a mixture of now cancelled PAYE work and self-employed work and will not meet the threshold to receive anything other than the £94.20 per week in Universal Credit.

Possible solution: As it is very common for performers and creative workers to have a portfolio career which includes PAYE working on short term contracts for a range of engagers, mixed with self-employed income, we would therefore ask that further consideration is given to the 50% profits cut off to ensure that as many people as possible can be given security under the SEISS.

  1. New graduates/new entrants into the industry: Equity has a significant number of young members – the average age of our membership is only 27. New entrants and drama school graduates haven't yet completed a tax return on which they can be assessed and are not currently eligible for SEISS.

Possible solution: Could they submit a tax return now to HMRC for the period that they have been working in 2019-20?

  1. Non UK nationals: A number of productions where Equity organises include workers who have No Recourse to Public Funds because of the status of their UK working visas.

Possible solution: Make SEISS accessible to workers who have been paying tax in the UK.

  1. Limited Companies/Personal Service Companies: There is also a lot of concern from those operating at Ltd companies and PSCs that they will only get 80% of anything that goes through PAYE (under the furlough scheme) but dividends will not qualify for SEISS. Many of these individuals are required or requested to set up these entities in order to gain work from certain engagers.

Possible solution: Could dividends be included in the SEISS?

  1. Income fluctuations across the 3 years of self-assessments: Some Equity members may have one ‘good’ year of work which could distort their present or more recent earnings – perhaps through having worked on a higher paid contract in TV or film 3 years ago. They will now be excluded from the SEISS despite having modest income in more recent years, or being the main earner in their household. There is also an issue of parity with the job retention scheme which does not exclude any PAYE employee.

Possible solution: Could those with 'profits' of over £50k still get income replacement up to the cap, especially given that there's no equivalent overall cap applied to the Job Retention Scheme? 

  1. D/deaf and disabled workers: Equity’s D/deaf and disabled members have expressed concerns about the interaction between Universal Credit, the self-employment scheme and other benefits they receive.

Possible solution: Clarification from DWP that D/deaf and disabled workers will not compromise their other welfare payments through claiming Universal Credit.

  1. Expenses: For many Equity members, the impact of their expenses on their annual profits is particularly burdensome, particularly for live entertainment workers and designers who spend a lot on studio space, model boxes, PA equipment, software and other legitimate expenses incurred through the normal course of their work.

Possible solution: Further consideration of groups of self-employed workers who are required to invest significantly in their businesses in order to operate.

Job Retention Scheme:

  1. Weekly payroll, non PAYE: A number of Equity members are currently contracted in TV and theatre - many are weekly payroll and have other characteristics of employees but have self-employed tax and NI status (the latter since 2014) because of their pattern of work. Equity and the employers’ organisations in theatre especially think they should be in the JRS but urgently need to get clarity on this.

As my MP, please talk to my union about what our members need.

Yours,

An Equity member