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Lockdowns mean freelancers ‘working more for less’

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Self-employed individuals are having to take on more work, at less attractive rates of pay, as the measures introduced continue to bite according to a new study from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE).

The study, which has been seen by the Daily Telegraph, suggests that day rates charged by freelancers fell by an average of £16 at the tail end of 2020, while workers in certain sectors are now having to work up to 15% more than they were before the pandemic hit.

Chloé Jepps, head of research at IPSE, told the Telegraph that the key finding from the research was that self-employed freelancers were having to work more hours for less money.

She continued: “This is because they were cutting their rates to competitively scoop up as much work as possible given many were not able to during lockdowns. It is a worry that this could translate to a downward trend in day rates.”

Previous research by IPSE found that freelancers were badly hit by that first lockdown last year. It discovered that in the second quarter of 2020, freelancers were on average only working 7.5 weeks out of a possible 13, the lowest figure on record.

Inevitably, that has had a sharp impact on incomes, leading to 90% of self-employed workers telling the trade body that they were concerned about the financial impact of the pandemic.

Support for the self-employed

One of the big contributors to the problems faced by the self-employed has been the support schemes introduced for these workers. 

Not only did it take far longer to get these up and running, compared to schemes which helped those in regular employment, but the structure of the schemes meant that significant numbers of self-employed people were excluded from the help on offer

Data from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS has found that as many as 2.5 million people do not qualify for the government’s support schemes. It said there were “clear injustices” in the way these people are excluded “not least in the hard cut-offs which mean someone with profits of £50,000 can claim the maximum available while someone with £50,001 can claim nothing. 

“Equally, someone with 51% of declared income from self-employment can claim the maximum, while someone with 49% can claim nothing.”

What’s more, while the fourth round of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme will cover the February to April period, the government has still not confirmed precisely how much workers can get from it. The first and third instalments paid out 80% of profits, though this dropped to 70% for the second instalment.

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