Access to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
Since freelancers are unfortunately not eligible for Sick Statutory Pay (SSP), it’s important to know that if you feel unwell, are unable to complete commissions or have had future commissions cancelled, you might be eligible for Employment and Support Allowance.
This is available to those who have been employed or self-employed and paid National Insurance contributions, usually in the last two to three years. However, if that doesn’t apply to you, you may still be able to get an income-related ESA.
Under 25s can claim £57.90 a week and those over will receive £73.10, and this gets assessed after 13 weeks. Although this might not be much in comparison to regular daily or weekly earnings, it can offer assistance with covering the essentials. However, note that those with savings or investments worth over £16,000 are unlikely to be eligible. Find out more here, from discovering your eligibility to what you can get.
Universal tax credit
If things are feeling particularly tight, it might also be worth looking into Universal Tax Credit. The government has hit pause on a few of their requirements, like needing a note from your doctor, or having to provide a Minimum Income Floor (an assumed level of income). You can learn more here.
Council Tax Reduction
If you’re experiencing a dip in your income, or have had your upcoming jobs suspended – your council tax bill could be reduced up to 100%. Please note, your council will take into consideration where you live, whether you have any dependants and any savings when exploring your eligibility. You can apply here.
Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
On 26 March the British government announced the new Self-Employment Income Support Scheme that will pay self-employed workers a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits. Those eligible will receive up to £2,500 per month for at least three months. Please note, according to the government, payments are estimated to begin in early June – however, the money you receive will be backdated from March. Here’s what you need to know:
• The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018–19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19
• HMRC will use the average trading profits from tax returns in 2016–17, 2017–18 and 2018–19 to determine the size of the grant
• Please note: if you are new to self-employment and did not complete a self-assessment form for the year 2018–19 you will not be eligible, and should look to Universal Credit support as an alternative
• HMRC have said that they will contact those who are eligible
• Before grant payments are made, the self-employed will still be able to access other available government support for those affected by coronavirus, i.e. Universal Credit
• Unlike the employee scheme, the self-employed can continue to work as they receive support
• The grants will be taxable, and will need to be declared on tax returns by January 2022
For more information and to check your eligibility, click here.