Millions of low paid self-employed workers suffering financial hardship as a result of the the coronavirus outbreak will have to wait for some time to receive financial help from the government, the chancellor suggested today.
Rishi Sunak has unveiled plans for the government to pay employees 80% of their salaries, up to £2,500 a month. The help will not be delivered until the end of April once the government has the system up and running.
But the measures did not apply to the self-employed.
Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, Sunak said the Treasury had been looking at finding a solution for the five million self-employed workers with “intense detail”.
But while he said an announcement on what would be done was coming “very shortly”, the help itself could take some time.
“In terms of something being implemented, that will take longer,” he told the Commons.
He added: “There are genuine practical and principle reasons why it is incredibly complicated to design an analogous scheme to the one that we have for employed workers.
“We absolutely understand the situation that many self-employed people face at the moment as a result of what’s happening and are determined to find a way to support them.
“We just need to be confident that can be done in a way that is deliverable and is fair to the vast majority of the British workforce.”
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said Labour was not “looking for a row” but warned people were desperate “for a solution”.
Ed Davey, the acting leader of the Lib Dems, said the self-employed were suffering from “real stress” and an “urgent package is needed now”.
“They are literally, in many cases, simply running out of money,” he said.
Labour MP Wes Streeting said: “For those workers that don’t benefit, particularly the five million self-employed, the degree of anxiety is increased because they’ve seen the ship sailing carrying others but not them.”
The prime minister also banned public gatherings of more than two people and ordered the closure of non-essential shops.