I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding support for the self-employed and microbusinesses, and the specific issues facing sellers on Etsy as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
I appreciate their concerns and sympathise with the desperate situation many microbusiness owners are facing at this time.
It is a relief that the Government listened to the calls from the self-employed, MPs and various organisations, and brought forward an income protection scheme for the self-employed. However, I remain concerned that June will be too long to wait for millions of people who need more immediate support. Asking people to rely on Universal Credit in the meantime will be very worrying for many, especially given all of the problems with the Universal Credit system.
I also believe it is unacceptable that two million self-employed people are not covered by the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). I believe that the Government must urgently revisit and adjust both SEISS and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, so that we can ensure that no workers are left behind in this time of deep anxiety.
I appreciate the specific problems that microbusinesses are facing and the measures that many of them have suggested. I have written to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to ask that the Government consider these reforms and have posted a copy of this message below.
On a related note, I welcome that the Financial Conduct Authority has brought forward measures to protect those struggling with repayments because of coronavirus. It must now work with credit providers to implement these measures as quickly as possible.
I can assure you that I will continue to engage with the Government on measures to support the self-employed and microbusinesses.
I am contacting you on behalf of the self-employed Etsy microbusiness owners in my constituency that are struggling because of the coronavirus crisis.
This crisis has hit all businesses hard, but microbusinesses, like those who operate through Etsy, are particularly vulnerable as a result of their small size and limited economic room for manoeuver.
Despite this, as sole traders, microbusiness owners don’t generally qualify for many social safety net programs, including unemployment insurance, disability insurance, or paid leave.
I am therefore asking you to consider implementing the following measures to assist microbusinesses during this difficult time:
Tax and debt deferral: The government should negotiate deferred mortgage and credit card payments for self-employed microbusinesses, who often operate out of their homes and use personal credit cards to fund their business.
Unemployment protection: More than 50% of independent workers in the UK and Europe are not covered by unemployment benefits. While Etsy sellers do not face the same classification issues as on-demand service providers, they do face similar economic security issues, such as managing income volatility and savings for the future. For this reason, governments should not only focus on platform workers as such, but broaden the discussion to include those workers outside of traditional employment arrangements. The previously announced measures that targeted the self-employed have been welcomed by the Etsy community. However, they are worried that not being able to access this support until June will put them in a difficult position as they cannot draw any benefits and are already experiencing decreased demand for goods.
Business-critical services: Etsy sellers depend on critical e-commerce infrastructure, including financial services, delivery, and internet connectivity. Governments should ensure that these essential services, including the free flow of goods, remain fully operational, even as the public and private sectors take greater measures to contain the spread of the virus.
Taken together, these reforms would dramatically ease the burdens faced by Etsy sellers like my constituents, as well as the millions of independent contractors, self-employed individuals, and microbusinesses who are the backbone of the broader gig economy.
I hope that you will consider implementing them.
Member of Parliament for Bolton South East and Shadow Minister for International Development