Anneliese Dodds has accused the government of having spent the last 12 months amid the coronavirus pandemic “looking the other way” as research shows that one in five self-employed people plan to leave self-employment as the crisis ends.
Commenting on a Resolution Foundation survey of workers earlier this year, which found that 19% were planning to leave self-employment after the pandemic, she said the lack of government support risks damaging the recovery.
“It’s now been a full year that more than a million self-employed people have had to get by while being excluded from Covid support schemes. For government, it’s been a year of looking the other way,” the Shadow Chancellor said.
The survey also found that 29% of self-employed people who had reported losing income as a result of the pandemic were ineligible for the self-employed income support scheme unveiled by Rishi Sunak at the start of the health crisis.
“That’s not just spectacularly unfair on those who have had the courage and entrepreneurial spirit to go it on their own. It also risks damaging the recovery we so desperately need,” Dodds added.
“The government needs to fix the gaps in its support scheme and help self-employed people to get back on their feet and out the other side of this crisis.”
Labour has highlighted that there were an estimated 4,973,249 self-employed workers across the UK before the virus first hit the country and, based on the 19% figure in the research, 944,917 now intend on leaving the sector.
Recent research by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed also shows that, while the number of self-employed people fell generally last year by 5%, the impact has been particularly pronounced in certain industries.
The number of workers operating in solo self-employment in administrative and secretarial occupations fell by 9%, in skilled trades occupations by 8%, in process, plant and machine operatives by 20% and in elementary occupations by 13%.
Labour has repeatedly called on Sunak to reform the economic support available to self-employed people throughout the pandemic. Keir Starmer warned as the Chancellor delivered the Budget that “millions will still be left out in the cold”.
Sunak told MPs that the two final self-employment support grants will include 600,000 more recently self-employed people and that those whose turnover has fallen by 30% or more will continue to get the full grant; others can get a 30% grant.
Trade unions and campaigners have called for more support for the self-employed from the government, highlighting that they make up around 15% of the workforce and will contribute an estimated £125bn in turnover to the Covid recovery.