Rishi Sunak announced that self-employed workers could claim Universal Credit at £94.25 per week, well below the income protection offered to employees Photo: Christian Erfurt
The UK's creative industries are petitioning for the government to rethink its income protection plan during the coronavirus pandemic, claiming that current measures discriminate against self-employed and freelance workers.
On Friday, the UK finance minister Rishi Sunak announced an emergency bailout plan for the nation's businesses that would enable salaried workers to claim 80% of wages for up to £2,500 a month during the crisis period. In the same plan, Sunak announced that self-employed workers could claim Universal Credit at £94.25 per week, well below the income protection offered to employees. As the current measures stand, an employee with an annual salary of £30,000 will be eligible to claim up to £24,000, whilst a self-employed person with the same average annual earnings can only claim a maximum of £4,800 via Universal Credit.
In response, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF), an independent body which advocates for the UKs creative industries, has sent an open letter to Sunak, urging him to protect freelance workers during the coronavirus crisis.
In the letter, CIF's chief executive officer Caroline Nolan said that the government's business protection measures has created "a worrying inequity between those who now have their income secured and the UKs 5 million self-employed workers and freelancers who are left despondent".
The letter goes on to propose that the government should create a "Temporary Income Protection Fund of £15bn to provide all self-employed workers with a monthly income matching their average existing earnings over the past three years, capped at average UK earnings after the basic rate of income tax and with a minimum monthly income of the Real Living Wage". It adds that "there is now precedent for this across Europe".
The letter has been signed by 30 cultural trade unions, including British Arts Festivals Association, Crafts Council, Creative United and Design Council.