Self employed in the community are ‘falling through the cracks’
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Self employed in the community are ‘falling through the cracks’

Employment organisation Work Avenue warns that Jewish professionals such as taxi drivers may struggle during the economic turbulence caused by coronavirus

Work Avenue
Work Avenue

Self-employed members of Britain’s Jewish community have said they are “falling through the cracks” in the Government’s coronavirus safety net to help sole traders survive the economic effects of lockdown.

While the Treasury will pay 80 percent of average earnings for most self-employed people, those who set up since April 2019 will lose out, as will those who did not earn a minimum average amount.

Work Avenue, an organisation helping Jewish professionals and businesses, said some were “falling through the cracks” but that even those who were covered could still suffer in terms of short-term cash-flow.

“People who will lose out the most are those that set up as self-employed after April 2019 and people who left jobs in March 2020 and their old employers will not take them back to furlough them”, a spokeswoman told Jewish News. “Even if you qualify for some support, there may still be cash-flow issues before the support is paid.”

One Jewish taxi driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was still working for this very reason, adding that despite government measures and his company’s reduction on vehicle rental, he still had to cover his expenses.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the self-employed would receive 80 percent of their salary, based on their last two years of tax returns, but payments only start in June, meaning that the self-employed must fend for themselves for two months. “If I didn’t have my pension coming in already, I’d be in a lot of trouble,” he said..

Another member of the Jewish community, Michael Rey, runs Summit Property Maintenance, a rope access company for general building maintenance, which was “still operating but only for emergency works, which make up between 20 and 30 percent of our regular business”.

He expressed similar concerns about the June start date for his three employees, who face a cut in their wages in line with a decrease in demand.

“They have days where they’re working, but not at the usual rate,” he said, adding that the bailout was “taking too long to filter through… my staff are still waiting to hear.” As for his own income – the profit from the business – this will be covered by the government scheme which protects up to £50,000 per annum.

According to Work Avenue, the differing legal status of businesses has impacted their eligibility for support. “People who have a limited company are not being helped in the same way,” the spokeswoman said.

“Company directors can furlough the PAYE element of their income, but can only then carry out the legal obligations for their company. If the company is still trading, the directors cannot furlough themselves.”

Greg Feld-Davidovici and James Keisner, co-founders of AW Offices, a co-working space in central London, said the Government was not doing enough, and has offered clients either a 20 percent three-month rent reduction or a rent deferral.

The company is “breaking even or even operating at a loss” during a period of anticipated growth, with “new clients falling through”, Feld-Davidovici said, calling for relief on tax, rent and business liabilities. “Retail, hospitality, and other industries have been given relief. I don’t see why we should be any different.”

His is a familiar story currently being heard daily by Victoria Sterman, chief executive of Resource, a Jewish not-for-profit organisation offering employment advice and support which is “supporting hundreds of people right now,” with many clients moving their offerings online.

By way of another example, Work Avenue relayed the journey of Hannah, who owns a company catering for private events in people’s homes. “Overnight, as restrictions were implemented, all of her bookings were cancelled,” a spokeswoman said.

“She knew she had to act quickly. Mother’s Day was approaching, and since people were no longer able to celebrate in person, she came up with the idea of delivering beautifully-packaged cream teas instead. Working day and night, she delivered 50 hampers around north-west London. It was a massive achievement.”

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