Sector welcomes relief for construction’s self-employed

Support measures for those who are self-employed and hit by the coronavirus outbreak have been roundly welcomed by the construction sector, albeit with a degree of caution.

Sector welcomes relief for construction’s self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced yesterday that a taxable grant will be paid to the self-employed or partnerships if they have suffered a loss in income, worth 80% of their profits up to a cap of £2,500 per month.

This support will be available for three months in one lump-sum payment and will start to be paid from the beginning of June.

The new measure will be called the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme and is open to those who were trading in the last financial year, still trading now, and planning to continue doing so this year.

To be eligible for financial support, over half of a claimant’s income must come from self-employment.

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.

However, those who are recently self-employed and do not have a full year of full accounts will not receive any help under this scheme.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the support package is welcome relief for the thousands of self-employed workers in the construction industry.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Construction workers across the country will now be taking a collective sigh of relief knowing they will now be protected in the same way that employees will be if they lose work due to COVID-19. I am delighted that the Chancellor has heeded our calls to be generous with his offer to the self-employed, who make up almost 40% of those working in the construction industry.

“Building companies will now also be able to close sites to protect workers and public health without having to worry about the losses faced by self-employed workers on those sites. We now urge the Treasury and HMRC to ensure that all support packages are up and running as soon as physically possible.”

The chief executive of the RTPI has welcomed the announcement but has urged the government to bring forward the help earlier.

Victoria Hills said the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme would provide a ‘lifeline’ to self-employed planners during the coronavirus lockdown but many needed the help now.

Ms Hills said: “I am delighted the government has listened to the needs of business and steps have been taken to support those in self-employment.

“Our self-employed members represent a growing and important part of the built environment sector. Retaining the strength of the planning profession during this period is key to ensuring our members can mobilise quickly to support the government’s priorities such as homes, infrastructure and levelling-up.

“But I am concerned that some of those in the most need will not be able to access any financial support until June. I would urge the chancellor to reconsider this timeframe.”

SELECT insisted that more clarity is still needed.

Managing director Alan Wilson said: “SELECT welcomes the measures that have been announced, which we believe will provide much-needed help and reassurance, both for our members and other construction professionals.

“However, more guidance is required on the work which the self-employed are able to do following the First Minster’s announcement earlier this week regarding work on construction sites. We are expecting further guidance from the Scottish Government on Monday which, we hope, will clarify matters.   

“The measure are welcome but their delay has caused huge anxieties to our members for well over a week but at least they have now been announced and we will be studying closely their impact over the next couple of days.

“As a leading member of the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum, we will also discuss these new developments with our fellow organisations and continue to press for further clarity and assistance for the thousands of construction professionals across Scotland.”

Fiona Harper, director of employment and skills at SELECT, added: “In addition to these new measures, SELECT will continue to offer advice and support through our dedicated online hub, and our staff will talk members through their options on our many helplines.

“We have received a large volume of calls this week from self-employed members who are concerned about what the future holds. While this announcement is welcome, this is only the beginning of a long and anxious period for contractors across Scotland.

“Our Employment team will use this new information to provide further advice by any means necessary to ensure members are reassured and prepared for the coming weeks.”

  • Read all of our articles relating to COVID-19 here.
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