Articles - 11th March 2020

MP’s call for sick leave pay for the self-employed

Words by The UP team

Urgent calls from MPs for five million self-employed workers to be given equal sick pay rights (The Telegraph

Politicians and trade bodies are calling for urgent protections for self-employed workers and low earners having to take time off work because of coronavirus.

These workers are not generally entitled to statutory sick pay but MPs have said exceptions should be made to avoid people coming into work while ill for fearing of losing their income.

A parliamentary petition to include the self-employed in statutory sick pay during the coronavirus has been signed by more than 100,000 people.

IPSE, an organisation representing the self-employed, said that this group is particularly at risk. It is calling on the government to create an emergency fund to support freelancers who lose out on significant amounts of income because of the coronavirus.

People taking time off work because of illness are legally entitled to £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks; however they must be employed and earning on average at least £118 per week before tax to qualify. This effectively excludes the self-employed, many zero-hour contractors and lower earners.


Maternity rights to be stripped from self-employed women under new Conservative law (Contractor Calculator)

Ten’s of thousands of female self-employed professionals will have little to celebrate on International Women’s Day this Sunday, due to new legislation from April 2020 that will remove the current maternity rights of self-employed female workers.

This is as a result of an ill-thought through and rushed tax law which is designed to classify self-employed freelancers as “deemed employees”, but which then proceeds to tax them like employees but without providing them with the same rights as employees.

Currently most professional freelancers operate using their own limited companies, working for various clients on a project by project basis. After expenses and paying themselves a modest salary, they make profits which are subject to corporation tax – and in some cases then withdraw money from the company as dividends, which is subject to income tax.

And similar to sole traders, they pay national insurance contributions, which then entitles them to claim for statutory maternity pay when they take time off to have a baby.

But, under the design of the new rules, their clients are able to classify them as “deemed employees” and make national insurance deductions and income tax at source. But, in this instance, no employment rights at all are conferred on the worker.


 Delivery firm Hermes to pay gig workers if they must self-isolate (The Guardian)

One of the UK’s largest gig economy delivery firms has announced it will pay its self-employed couriers if they are told to self-isolate because of coronavirus, despite not normally providing sick pay.

Hermes, whose 15,000 couriers are normally paid only if they complete a parcel delivery or collection, for retailers including John Lewis and Asos, said on Friday it had set aside a £1m support fund.

The move follows warnings from trade unions that a lack of sick pay for the more than 1 million gig economy workers could accelerate the spread of the virus, as workers would face financial difficulties if they did not carry on regardless of their or others’ health. 


Government set to give self-employed workers cash to self-isolate (Yahoo Finance UK)

Millions of self-employed workers could be handed a financial lifeline if they need to self-isolate over the coronavirus, according to a UK minister.

Health secretary Matt Hancock gave the clearest signal yet on Thursday that next week’s budget will include support for self-employed workers not entitled to sick pay.

The government has been under mounting pressure to act amid warnings some workers with symptoms face a difficult choice between getting paid and following advice to stay away from work.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) added its voice on Thursday to the growing campaign for sick pay rights to be extended to an estimated 2 million workers who earn too little to qualify. Sick pay is currently only paid to employees who earn more than £118 a week, while many of Britain’s 5 million self-employed workers also have limited protection against lost earnings.

Hancock told delegates at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) annual conference in London the government was working on a way to ensure the self-employed were not “penalised for doing the right thing.”


A ‘gender pay gap’ exists in anonymous online gig economy marketplaces (Metro)

A team from Columbia University found that women’s hourly earnings were 10% below men’s in one sector of the ‘gig economy’ in which jobseekers take up casual, short-term employment. They analysed data from the Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) platform, an online service that connects employers to workers who perform ‘human intelligence tasks’. Researchers crunched data relating to 20,000 men and women who completed five million tasks.

The ‘pay gap’ appears to have been caused by women choosing jobs which have a lower hourly rate of pay, the academics suggested.


BAME workers are overrepresented in the ‘zero-hours contract’ economy (Real Business)

BAME employees, (those from Black, Asian and other minority backgrounds) are more likely to suffer job instability in the UK, according to a new study.

The report, penned by the Carnegie Trust, University College London’s Centre for Longitudinal Studies and Operation Black Vote, found that younger BAME employees were most likely to be affected.

By studying the experiences of 25-year-old ethnic minority employees, the report found the group 50% more likely to be on zero-hours contracts while being 4% less likely to gain full-time employment.

The report reveals an endemic lack of career opportunities for BAME workers at all levels of the employment economy; from their overrepresentation in financially unreliable roles to FTSE 100 firms, where a third have no ethnic minority professionals on their boards. Lack of racial diversity at board level is even worse in FTSE 250 companies, where 119 out of 173 had no ethnic diversity, according to findings from the Parker Review Committee.


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