Coronavirus Key things to consider if you're self-employed and worried about coronavirus.

Regularly updated article with advice, recommendations and support for the self-employed whilst under covid-19 restrictions.

Covid-19 is already having an unprecedented impact on the economy, large and small businesses are already struggling at best, closing at worst, and despite the measures for the self-employed this week, the reality is that many individuals who are working for themselves are facing hugely challenging times. This guide aims to provide some recommendations on where you can get support if you're self-employed.

Key Resources

+ Government Self-Employment Income Scheme (best for sole-traders)
+ Government Business Support Advice (best for limited company owners)
+ Money Saving Expert resources and advice
+ IPSE Advice and Resources
+ Leapers - mental health under quarantine

What you do can do

1/ Don’t panic

Take a deep breath. Any global scale scenario can cause anxiety, and as we’ve seen, people are responding in a range of ways to the threat of coronavirus - but keep a level head, and give your self some mental and emotional space to process. There's a lot going on.

Manage your media intake. Manage the amount of news and media content you're reading, and focus on authoritative sources, rather than commentary and rumours. There's a great guide from the independent on tackling anxiety during covid.

Engage with your clients. Discuss about their contingency and continuity plans, and how they’re likely to affect your work with them. Make sure your technology and tools are setup so you can do your work remotely, especially if your client has extra security measures such as a VPN. We've also created a guide if you're new to working from home on how to work well remotely.

Understand your finances. Look ahead and understand what your financial situation is right now, and how long you're able to work without income, or on a reduced income. Reduce outgoings where possible, look at monthly regular costs like subscriptions. Speak to any clients who are outstanding on payments.

2/ If you're unwell

Should the worse happen and you fall ill - you may not being able to work and might be putting your contracts and income at risk.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) is to be made available by government for businesses with under 250 staff under emergency legislation during the outbreak. SSP will be refunded by the government, and will be available to those who are unwell due to coronavirus, and/or if you're under self-isolation due to coronavirus (i.e. someone in your household is unwell, or you've been in contact with someone infected) for employees of small businesses.

If you are a Limited Company, you will be eligible for access to reclaim funds to cover SSP if you [or your employees] are unwell or under self-isolation due to coronavirus. If you are a sole-trader you are eligible for salary cover [see below].

Income protection insurance polices may provide cover if you contract the virus and cannot work, however, insurance is unlikely to cover not being able to work due if you need to care for someone else and cannot work, or if contracts are being cancelled outside of your control.

If you're not able to work, but have work to be done - read your contracts, understand what your obligations to clients are if you can’t work, and discuss what might need to happen in this situation. If you have insurance, read your policies and understand what cover and protection you have in place if you’re not able to work. Indemnity insurance may cover you if your clients have an issue with you not being able to deliver your work.

Take this as an opportunity to look ahead to the future generally and look at what measures you can put in place should you not be able to work, regardless of the reason.

3/ If your work is in jeopardy

No matter the health implications of COVID-19, it feels like the larger issue will be the economic impact upon businesses globally and locally.

Unfortunately, we are already seeing lots of examples of where projects are being put on hold or cancelled due to the outbreak, many small businesses simply can't work from home - such as tradespeople, retailers, anyone who needs to work face to face with people - leading to many of our members with concerns or struggling to cope with a sudden gap in their income.

Universal Credit is available for anyone who's income has ceased: you are encouraged to apply for Universal Credit, and detailed notes on what is available, to whom, and how to apply is available here via the Universal Credit website.

Government grants cover 80% of the salaries of the "self-employed". The grants will be worth up to 80% of your profits, capped at £2,500 per month. This will be calculated based on your tax returns for 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19 if you were self-employed over that period. with a number of restrictions, namely: you must earn more than 50% of your income from self-employment; your average trading profit must be lower than £50k/annum; you must have filed a tax return for 18/19. HMRC will contact you if you're eligible.

Limited company directors are not eligible but may be eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, unfortunately, this requires you to furlough yourself, which seems not legally possible if you are the sole director of a business, creating a lack of support for any SME business owner.

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is open to self-employed people and offers access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million for up to six years. The Government could also give you a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest and fees on the loan. Find out more.

Deferred income tax payments. If you have income tax payments due in July 2020 under the self-assessment system, you can defer them until January 2021.

As a community, we define 'self-employed' as anyone without a boss looking out for them - to be absolutely clear, we hear that many small businesses right now are feeling completely unsupported. Whilst Leapers cannot offer financial advice or support, we are here to do everything else we can in this challenging time.

It's important to understand what support is available, and read authoritative sources, rather than commentary - things are changing rapidly, but we expect legislation and emergency budgets to reduce in their frequency now. We recommend the following sources of information:

gov.uk - business support during covid-19
Money Saving Expert - support for the self-employed

4/ If you’re able to work

Stay at home. We recognise the need for many to continue working, for their income, for their wellbeing, but if we do not do everything we can to reduce the spread of the virus, this situation lasts longer. Please, unless you are an essential worker, do everything you can to remain home.

Continue the best you can. It's important to continue working wherever possible, but you may need to redesign how you're working, and what you're offering. Consider moving to online services, communicate with your customers to discuss what changes need to be made.

Balance wellbeing and work. It is going to be hard to continue operate in the same way as before, emotional stress and change puts its toll on everyone. Make sure you're taking regularly breaks, not putting excessive stress on yourself to work harder than before, and are factoring in exercise and rest.

Parenting whilst working. If you're having to juggle caring for others, especially children who require homeschooling, bear in mind that things are different right now, and you will not be able to be as effective at both. Create clear space for both types of tasks, but where possible, recognise that you're not able to do everything. If you're co-parenting, create schedules to give each other shared responsibility and time to work. DITFK are a fantastic support group for self-employed parents with lots of advice.

Talk about it.

Share how you’re doing, ask how others are doing. The anxiety around the outbreak of the virus causes enough concern without having to hide it, so share how you’re feeling.

Connect with communities. If you’re not able to leave the house, digital communities are available to help you feel connected - whether it be Leapers, any one of the many category or theme specific communities like DITFK for freelance parents, or general freelance communities such as Independent Work. Also pick up the phone, chat with friends and family, put additional effort into staying connected to others. We're compiling a list of support groups here.

Access help. Mind have posted a useful guide on looking after your mental health under infectious outbreaks which is worth reading, and if you’re feeling really low and in urgent need of support - speak to NHS Direct on 111 or Samaritans on 116 123, for free, 24 hours a day.

Support others.

We're encouraging everyone to actively buy from small businesses. Every purchase and project helps to mitigate the financial impact that many self-employed are facing - we are building a list of communities and resources which are pointed directly at the wellbeing and support for the self-employed, and a list of ways anyone can support small businesses.

Start buddying up. If you’re worried about not being able to work, create small pods of people you trust that can step in to support if you’re not able. Find others with similar skillsets, and come to an agreement on how to work together and substitute for each other. Even if you don’t need someone else to step in for work responsibilities, buddying up with others if you’re isolated helps with accountability, loneliness, and feedback.

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