Government Self-employment Income Support Scheme: take action

28 May 2020

The Chancellor has announced a welcome extension to the support scheme for self-employed and freelance workers, but gaps still remain and the future is uncertain. So we’re still calling on ALCS members to contact their MPs to press for improvements and a vision to support the creative sector.

UPDATE: On 29 May, the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) was extended to cover a further three months to the end of August, with a maximum grant of £6,570 based on 70% of average monthly net profits. Claims for the first grant, of up to £7,500, can be made until 13 July and claims for the second will open in August. More guidance about the extension will be published on 12 June.

With fellow creative groups, ALCS has campaigned for this extension to put freelancers and the self-employed on a similar footing to employees under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme (JRS). So thanks to everyone who has so far contacted their MPs about this. We do still have unresolved concerns about SEISS, though, so do write again – and if you haven’t already, please get involved.

Read the full updated criteria here.


UPDATE: As of 23 April, the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) criteria has been further clarified and outlines that someone on a fixed-term contract can be re-employed, furloughed and claimed for if their contract expired after either:

  • 28 February 2020 and a Real Time Information (RTI) payment submission for them was notified to HMRC on or before 28 February 2020
  • 19 March 2020 and an RTI payment submission for them was notified to HMRC on or before 19 March 2020

Read the full updated criteria here.


With writers’ and freelancers’ incomes at risk due to the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the Government has developed the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which is designed to help those who have been financially impacted by the virus. Although ALCS has welcomed this announcement, we fear it will still leave many writers without an income for many months. As a result, we’re asking ALCS members to share our concerns and proposed amendments to the scheme with their MPs.

Taking action is easy. All you have to do is visit members.parliament.uk, where you can search for your MP, find their email address and contact them directly by email using the following suggested text:

 

Dear <name of your MP>

Please pardon me for getting in touch when you must be overwhelmed right now. I am writing to ask for your help over the continuing gaps in Government support for the self-employed and freelancers, like authors, during the Coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor has announced an extension to the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS), which is of course welcome, but I’m afraid it is clear that many freelancers will still be left unprotected at this time, with the future very uncertain.

As my MP, I am asking you to consider the areas of concern the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), which represents over 100,000 authors and writers, has set out and to write to the Chancellor asking for these gaps to be addressed.

Proposals from ALCS

  • People who are part-employed and part-freelance still have to demonstrate that at least 50% of their income comes from self-employment to qualify for SEISS. This leaves many people unsupported, or else having their normal income not fairly reflected. Many freelancers – including writers and authors – draw their income from a range of sources, lots of which have simply dried up, and will be unfairly disadvantaged. The 50% threshold should go and income from other part-time sources should be taken into account when applying – as people have to demonstrate, after all, that they have been adversely affected.
  • Self-employed workers with ongoing expenses, such as workspace and equipment rent, are disadvantaged by SEISS, which focuses on taxable profits. It would be simpler and fairer, given the £2,500 monthly upper limit on the first grant and £2,190 for the second, to take gross income not profits into account.
  • Recently self-employed people remain at a disadvantage, or left out of SEISS completely. After starting up, their income may not be properly reflected in their 2018-19 tax return, or they may indeed not have one. HMRC has now sent out tax returns for 2019-20 and the Chancellor should allow people to submit these, and have their income assessed for SEISS on this basis.
  • SEISS’ £50,000 upper threshold is unfair, when there is no equivalent in the Job Retention Scheme for employees. Many in the creative industries in London and the South East can earn over this, without being ‘super rich’ or having large savings. We understand the wish to exclude high-earners, but this arbitrary threshold captures people facing hardship and no current prospect of work. Given the monthly cap, they should not suffer just to exclude a very wealthy few.
  • Many self-employed people and freelancers structure their affairs – or have been so encouraged – to draw down their income in dividends from limited, personal service companies. They still have no support under JRS or SEISS, but include a large part of the UK’s creative workforce. These people are often not high-earners and being forced to rely on Universal Credit cannot be just. The Government should really address this unfair exclusion as soon as possible.
  • SEISS should be extended to match the JRS, which will now cover until the end of October, while self-employed and freelance support stretches until the end of August only. They will not only have to wait longer, and until August, for help, but will see it withdrawn earlier than furloughed employees, which is unfair.

We are grateful for the support the Government has offered, but believe it can be improved to help self-employed and freelance workers, such as authors and writers, against the impact of COVID-19.

If you have any questions, please contact the advocacy team at ALCS: advocacy@alcs.co.uk

Yours sincerely


MPs will receive a lot of correspondence and in order to clarify whether their constituents are writing to them, they will often ask for your address to verify this. Typically this request will come in an automated response from the MP’s mailbox, but you can include this information in your original message or a follow up.

If you do take part in this campaign, please email advocacy@alcs.co.uk to let us know who you’ve written to.