Prime Minister’s ‘whatever it takes’ approach should extend to the self-employed says FSB

New financial measures were released yesterday as the Prime Minister ordered a host of high street small businesses – including cafes, bars, restaurants, cinemas and gyms – to close.

The Chancellor by his side unveiled the fresh measures to support small firms and employees impacted by coronavirus-linked disruption, committing to the:

  • Launch of a coronavirus job retention scheme, allowing any employer the opportunity to apply to HMRC to have up to 80% of a member of staff’s salary paid – capped at £2,500 a month – backdated to 1 March, running for three months (a time-scale which will be kept under review) with no limit on funding for the initiative.

  • Deferral of any VAT due for the next quarter, and a deferral of self-assessment sums due until January 2021, alongside suspension of the Minimum Income Floor for sole traders claiming Universal Credit.

  • Extension of the interest free period for loans taken out through the business interruption loan scheme from six months to 12.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry commented on the new measures, saying: “The closure of thousands of small businesses on our high streets will threaten futures. It’s critical that the cash grants being made available to those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors reach them as swiftly as possible – and extension of their scope to other sectors given serious consideration. Insurers must stand ready to help those with business interruption policies.

“The coronavirus job retention scheme marks an unprecedented intervention. Executed swiftly, it will protect livelihoods and the viability of small employers. Putting a straightforward application process in place for the scheme will be central to its success. Many small employers will today be breathing a huge sigh of relief.

“However, the fact that it will not be operational for a month means many small employers are still presented with an immediate, potentially terminal cash flow crunch. Therefore it’s vital that banks play their part, and ensure that any small business owner seeking a 12 month interest free loan from Monday is helped immediately – there are no excuses.

“While it was encouraging to hear the Chancellor pledge his support for the self-employed today – with a commitment to defer self-assessment and VAT bills and suspend the Minimum Income Floor – this Government has a long way to go to show it’s on the side of our five million-strong self-employed community. Over the coming days, we need to see the Chancellor map out how he will directly support the self-employed in the same way as he has committed to directly support employees.

“The question at this point is – with firms being force to close – why have the self-employed been excluded from the commitment to pay 80% of earnings?

“It cannot be right that an employee currently earning £25,000 a year could access £20,000 per annum through the new job retention scheme, while someone who’s self-employed earning the same sum might only access around £5,000 worth of support.

“We need to see the Prime Minister’s ‘whatever it takes’ approach extended to the self-employed – that means following the lead of other nations by guaranteeing 80% of incomes for those who lose work.”

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