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Calls for sick pay for the self-employed

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) and Community Trade Union are calling for statutory sick pay for the self-employed.

Research by the two organisations found that nearly two thirds (58%) of self-employed people now believe they should have access to statutory sick pay – up from less than half before the pandemic.

One factor may be that after the experience of the pandemic, more than half (52%) of self-employed people don’t feel supported by the government. The figure rose to 67% among freelancers who work through limited companies, who were excluded from the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Half (49%) of freelancers therefore now believe they – like employees – should be entitled to pension contributions. More than two out of five (44%) also believe they should have access to maternity and paternity pay, while two out of five (40%) think they should be guaranteed a minimum wage like employees.

These views reflect freelancers’ biggest worries at the moment. Three fifths (58%) of freelancers are worried about the irregularity of their income. Two out of five (40%) were also concerned about not being financially prepared for retirement, while another 40% were worried about the blurring of the boundaries between home and work life. Almost two out of five (37%) were also worried about not being able to find new contracts and work.

After the financial damage of the pandemic to the freelance sector, as well as the self-employed support gaps, IPSE and Community are calling on government to follow countries such as Canada and Denmark in introducing a statutory sick pay entitlement for sole traders.

Although sole traders can currently apply for Employment Support Allowance for extended periods off work due to illness, IPSE and Community argue there must be a more agile and effective system, and suggest the SEISS grant scheme could serve as a blueprint for the new sick pay model.

Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “The financial devastation of the pandemic – combined with the gaps in support – have left the freelance sector in a more unstable position than ever. Freelancers now do not feel supported by government, and it must clearly rebuild its relationship with this vital sector.

“We urge government to do this by following Canada, Denmark and other countries in extending statutory sick pay to the self-employed. Although it was flawed, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme shows it is possible to provide quick and meaningful financial support to freelancers. We are calling on government to use this to ensure freelancers are protected and to safeguard this essential but complex sector against future crises.”