NUJ’s last-ditch call to the Chancellor for a freelance-friendly budget
The National Union of Journalists has written to the Chancellor asking him to ensure freelances get a fair deal in his budget – and redress for the millions of self-employed who have missed out on aid during the pandemic.
The letter from Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, to Rishi Sunak says that the pandemic has exposed the fragilities within the creative sector and that increased casualisation within the industry has resulted in deeply unfair and precarious working conditions for freelances, lack of holiday pay and sick pay and employer pension contributions.
It says the UK Chancellor must:
- Level up support for the self employed and retain the level of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant to at least £2500 per month.
- Extend the SEISS beyond April 2021.
- Extend the SEISS to cover the estimated 3 million individuals so far excluded.
- Factor in a severely affected tax year 2020/2021 in the calculation of the average of tax years for the SEISS.
- Support the NUJ’s Fair Deal for Freelances Campaign and Freelance Rights Charter.
The letter added:
"Journalists, photographers and technical operators have seen a freeze in commissions covering sporting, arts, cultural events and travel which have all been cancelled due to the lockdowns. Lockdowns and restrictions on indoor venues mean many creatives have been unable to carry out work. Supporting self-employed people to stay afloat now and in the forthcoming months is vital if we want the economy to pick up again when the lockdown relaxes."
Universal Credit has been a lifeline for many self-employed people during the pandemic for those unable to access the SEISS. However, only 6 percent of NUJ members surveyed had made a claim and nearly 40 percent were not eligible, likely due to the low household savings threshold of £16,000 often saved for tax purposes and emergencies. The letter asked the Chancellor to:
- Remove the Universal Credit Minimum Income Floor permanently.
- Raise UC to a Real Living Wage equivalent, in the interim retain the UC £20 uplift.
- Revisit the household savings threshold.
Women have been disproportionately affected by the effects of Covid-19. The NUJ all-members' survey showed many women who freelanced so they could combine work with caring responsibilities, found their work dried up overnight. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute, last summer, calculated women's jobs were 1.8 times more at risk in the crisis than men's jobs. The NUJ has called for Equality Impact Assessments of the government' Covid-19 financial aid schemes.
The Fair Deal for Freelances campaign is fighting to ensure job protection and benefits are not dependent on employment status. #FairDeal4Freelances includes a 10-point charter of rights the self-employed should enjoy. It calls for the right to organise in a trade union, to have a written contract with fair terms and conditions, prompt payment and equal treatment at work in terms of health and safety. Freelances should get holiday pay, parental leave and allowances and a retirement pension. They should have the right to resist companies forcing them on to PAYE, to incorporate as a limited company, or work under umbrella companies.
Fair Deal for Freelances
The NUJ has launched a major campaign to fight for a better deal for freelances.