Dezeen Magazine

Lack of support for UK freelance designers "causing worry and division" amid Covid-19 pandemic

Lack of support for UK freelance designers "causing worry and division" amid Covid-19 pandemic

The UK's creative sector has welcomed the huge financial package announced by the government yesterday aimed at helping companies protect jobs during the coronavirus crisis, but warned that freelancers and self-employed workers need greater support.

The temporary measures, worth an estimated £78 billion, include grants that will cover up to 80 per cent of salaries for workers that are "furloughed" – retained as employees but not doing any work – rather than laid off.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme payments will be worth a maximum of £2,500 per month for each furloughed worker, for up to three months. Other measures include the deferment of next upcoming VAT payments and self-assessment tax bills.

"We are encouraged by the financial measures announced this evening and hope they will provide much-needed support for practices to retain staff and manage cash flow," said Alan Vallance, CEO of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

"The RIBA is engaging with the Government on a daily basis and this latest package of support reflects proposals we put to the chancellor earlier this week," he added. "We will continue to ensure the concerns of our members are heard, understood and acted upon.”

The creative industries have a high proportion of small businesses, self-employed workers and freelancers, and there are widespread fears over how businesses and individuals will survive the crisis as the global economy seizes up.

Government has "failed to stand by freelancers and self-employed workers"

The UK's Creative Industries Federation welcomed the government's measures, which were announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday, but said more needed to be done to support workers without salaried jobs.

"We welcome the news that [the] government is standing by British businesses in this historic announcement but they have failed to stand by freelancers and self-employed workers – causing worry and division at this difficult time," said Caroline Norbury, CEO of the federation.

"The Chancellor's announcement tonight that the government will pay wages up to 80% for businesses will be very much welcomed by the UK's creative businesses, many of whom have had to shut their doors overnight.

"However, this creates a worrying inequity between those who now have their income secured and the UK's 5 million self-employed workers and freelancers who are left despondent."

Half of all freelancers have seen all work cancelled

According to the federation, freelancers make up one-third of the creative workforce. A Twitter poll conducted by the federation found that half of all freelancers have seen all their work cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The £94.25 per week offered in Universal Credit does not come anywhere near to compensating them for their income loss, nor is it close to the amount they can reasonably be expected to live off," said Norbury.

"We stand by all of the creative industries and, at this challenging time, it's vital the government stands by our self-employed and freelancers and mirrors the strong measures put in place for the UK's employed workforce."

Designer Sebastian Cox echoed the federation's comments.

"The measures announced yesterday really unfairly treat freelancers who are common in the manufacturing or fabrication parts of the design industry," he told Dezeen.

"The majority of our workshop and studio staff form a core team who are on PAYE [pay-as-you-earn, meaning companies collect and pay tax on behalf of their employees], who now have good protection, but we do also have project-by-project freelancers who have been treated inequitable."

Cox added: "We’re doing all we can to help the freelancers who have been working recently with us as they are really going to struggle with the uncertainty."

Details of the government's support package for businesses can be found here. Follow Dezeen's coverage of the coronavirus crisis here.

Photo is by Tim Gouw via Unsplash.