A final self-employment Covid-19 grant is to be made available and businesses must start paying towards the worker furlough scheme from August, the government has announced, 29 May.
Freelancers will be able to claim up to £6,570 from that date, giving those workers access to a total coronavirus grant of up to £14,070 each.
Businesses will also have to start paying National Insurance and tax contributions for staff in August, ramping up to 10% of furloughed wages in September and 20% in October.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak had previously announced the plan to get businesses to contribute to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), but he laid out further details on Friday.
He also revealed that workers can return part-time without losing any furlough payments from July – a month earlier than previously planned, following lobbying from businesses.
But businesses must start bearing the costs and from August all companies using the furlough scheme must start paying National Insurance and employer pension contributions.
In September and October contributions will rise to 10% and 20% respectively, the chancellor added, but workers still furloughed will keep getting 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month.
The government will cover 70% of wages up to £2,190 in September, with employers to pay National Insurance and pension contributions and 10% of wages, representing 14% of the gross employment costs.
The following month, the Treasury will pick up 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875, with employers paying tax contributions and 20% of wages, representing 23% of the gross employment costs, the government said.
It added that only 40% of businesses had claimed the pension contributions since the scheme was launched.
Officials added that companies can be flexible with their definition of “part-time” as long as a full-time employee has not returned to normal hours.
The Treasury said: “Individual firms will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return, so that they can decide on the best approach for them – and will be responsible for paying their wages while in work.”
Since it was launched, the CJRS has been used by one million businesses to support 8.5m jobs, at a cost of £15bn so far.
The scheme is expected to cost a total of around £80bn, or £10bn a month, although the Office for Budget Responsibility is set to publish detailed costs next week.
Business groups had asked the government to ensure that those industries suffering hardest were most protected.
But the Treasury said it was not always clear which sector a business was in, insisting it would not rule out future support if required.
Minister Sunak said: “Now, as we begin to reopen our country and kick-start our economy, these schemes will adjust to ensure those who are able to work can do so, while remaining amongst the most generous in the world.”
The chancellor had faced calls, including from a cross-party group of 113 MPs, to extend the scheme for self-employed workers, which has so far seen 2.3m claims worth £6.8bn.
The grant will be worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.
To combat fraud, employees will be able to report any concerns to HM Revenue and Customs.
However, and despite welcoming today’s news, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has warned that the government has “patently forgotten” groups like limited company directors and the newly self-employed and urged it to do more for them.
The government has said that in August, self-employed people eligible for SEISS will be able to claim 70% of their average trading profits (up to £6,570) for the months June, July and August.
Andy Chamberlain, director of policy at IPSE, said: “It will be an overwhelming relief for many self-employed people that the government has heeded our calls and extended SEISS. The scheme is a vital lifeline for millions of people and it is absolutely right that the government keeps it running.
“It is fair that, as with the Job Retention Scheme, the government has tapered the support on offer for the self-employed. However, it is disappointing that there will still be two months when employees can access support and the self-employed cannot. The government should watch the situation carefully and be ready to step in if the UK’s self-employed need more support.
“It is also vital that the government does not ignore the self-employed who cannot access this scheme. At the moment, groups like freelancers working through limited companies and the newly self-employed have patently been forgotten. We urge the government to consider these groups and also help them through the coming months.
“The extension of SEISS will protect a large proportion of the self-employed sector, but after Covid-19, the country will be looking to all of the UK’s five million-strong flexible workforce to get the economy back on its feet.”