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#ForgottenFreelances: NUJ seeks meeting with Treasury

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14 May 2020

As unions in the UK welcomed the Chancellor’s decision to extend the Job Retention Scheme until October, the NUJ sent a letter to Rishi Sunak telling him not to forget about the 2m freelances who are unable to get financial aid during the pandemic, and has requested a meeting with the Treasury.

Employees on furlough will continue to receive at least 80 percent of their monthly wages up to £2,500. Their employer can make up the balance. But the government will ask companies to start sharing the cost of the scheme from August. The scheme will continue for all sectors and regions of the country but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work, including arrangements for a phased return to work/part-time working; 7.5 million people are presently furloughed, paid for by the tax-payer. An NUJ survey found that 45 per cent said their employer had furloughed editorial staff. 

But, as the NUJ’s #ForgottenFreelances campaign has shown, many members are falling through the cracks of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme which opened for applications this week.

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, sent a letter to the Chancellor saying:

“The National Union of Journalists welcomes your announcement of an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme until the end of October; and we await your proposals on flexibility for part-time working and for employers to contribute.
“The NUJ is, however, very deeply concerned that so far, the UK Government has declined to make any statement on extending support for the self-employed beyond the one-time Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) payments.
“As you know, the NUJ represents more than 8,000 freelance members, many of whom have now seen all their work for the foreseeable future disappear completely and are facing considerable financial hardship. Individuals are now desperate about the longer-term and are facing genuine hardship and anxiety with their financial, physical and mental wellbeing compromised. Many do not expect to make a living going forward and are considering leaving the industry.”

The letter explained that many casuals paid by the PAYE system for doing shifts for newspapers and magazines were not being furloughed by the company they worked for. Similarly, those who have been forced into becoming self-employed traders are excluded from the scheme, as are the newly self-employed and those who were earning more than £50,000.

The union has also written to Jim Harra, first permanent secretary and chief executive of HM Revenue & Customs, asking for a meeting to discuss the plight of PAYE freelances who are falling though the gaps of the SEISS and job retention scheme. The letter also notes that many PAYE freelances work in the public service – including the BBC – which is not eligible for either scheme.

If you are a #ForgottenFreelance who is not eligible for the SEISS scheme download this letter to help you make your case to your MP.

Your MP can also support Early Day Motion 389  tabled by Caroline Lucas MP which notes concern that the details of SEISS do not reflect the reality of self-employment in the UK.

We are also asking other members to support freelance colleagues by sending this letter to your MP which urges the UK government to revamp its scheme to provide more support for freelances, PAYE individuals and the self-employed.

You can find your MP's email address on the WritetoThem website.

Support the NUJ's #ForgottenFreelance by tweeting a picture of yourself with the campaign logo. 

Download the logo 

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Tags: , freelance, covid-19, coronavirus, coronavirus job retention scheme, self-employed income support scheme, seiss, rishi sunak, hmrc, Jim Harra, forgottenfreelances, sole traders, paye, furlough