Sheffield TUC press statement Coronavirus Special no.3: self-employed workers

Friday 27th March

 Sheffield TUC welcomes Government package for self-employed


  • No money till June
  • Newly self-employed lose out
  • “Bogus self-employed” on low incomes left desperate
  • Migrant workers abandoned


Today Sheffield TUC welcomes the long-overdue package of measures announced yesterday to support self-employed workers, granting 80% of income to 95% (according to Rishi Sunak) of self-employed. “This wouldn’t have happened at all without pressure from the trade unions and the TUC – but it still does not go far enough to support the most vulnerable” says Martin Mayer Secretary of Sheffield TUC. 

  • No money till June Under the scheme, self-employed will not receive any money till June. Successful self-employed businesses should be able to cope with that. However, that’s a long time to wait for self-employed workers on low incomes who need money now
  • Newly self-employed lose out According to Rishi Sunak, self-employed will need to provide a minimum of one year’s tax return i.e. 2019, and the calculation is based on best of last three years. For newly self-employed, this almost certainly means they will get nothing
  • “Bogus self-employed” on low incomes left desperate Many of todays’ low wage workers are put on “bogus self-employed” status to save taxes and allow employers to avoid paying sick pay, holiday pay or pensions. They are some of the most exploited workers in the country. They include construction workers, lorry drivers, and many in warehousing, retail and other low paid jobs. They simply can’t wait till June for the money.
  • Migrant workers abandoned Migrant workers are often on temporary contracts and forced into “bogus self-employment”. In the current crisis they can’t go home but are stuck here with no income – and won’t qualify for Universal Credit.

Universal Credit not fit for purpose

In the meantime, millions of workers are having to turn to the Government’s failed welfare system – Universal Credit. This includes “bogus self-employed” workers who have lost their jobs because they are the economy’s most disposable workers. The problems include:

  1. Applications can’t be made because the service is overwhelmed. We have heard stories of desperate workers on the phone for hours, day after day, not able to get through. Every day’s delay adds to the minimum 5-week wait
  2. On-line applications are lengthy and complicated – the slightest mistake means the claim is rejected and you have to start all over again. That mean the 5-week wait starts all over again.
  3. Advance payments can be made soon after the claim is accepted, but it is a loan and has to be paid back quickly out of first few weeks’ meagre benefit payments
  4. Universal Credit pay-outs are so mean the Government has had to arbitrarily top up benefits by £1000 per claim per year. It is under huge pressure to scrap the punitive sanctions regime that leaves families with no money for weeks or months for the slightest error
  5. Anyone successfully making a claim today will not receive benefits till May at the earliest


“Trade Unions have been campaigning for years to scrap “bogus self-employment” says Martin Mayer. “They are the most exploited, disposable workforce in our low wage, flexible labour economy. We say if you work for an employer, you should be put on the books as an employee with full rights. Scrap “bogus self-employment” now!”


“The message to all low paid workers is clear” said Martin Mayer “join a trade union!” Any workers who want to discuss how to do this and get help organising should get in touch with Sheffield TUC in the first instance by emailing or sending a message on our Sheffield TUC Facebook Page




For more information, please contact Martin Mayer Secretary on 0776 1078482