UK opens £10 billion COVID-19 aid programme for self-employed (Reuters

Millions of British self-employed workers will be able to apply for one-off grants of up to £7,500 from today as part of a government assistance package for people whose businesses are affected by the coronavirus.

In a programme government forecasters estimate could cost around 10 billion pounds, self-employed workers financially hurt by the coronavirus will now be able to reclaim 80% of their monthly profits for three months, up to a maximum £7,500.

Only workers who had profits of less than £50,000 a year and submitted a tax return for the 2018/19 tax year are covered – so some including people who started self-employment more recently must rely on less generous benefits.

On Tuesday, Sunak extended the scheme for employees by another four months until the end of October, but said companies would have to start footing some of the 8-billion-pound monthly bill from August.

 

Gig economy workers exposed to virus, union warns (The Guardian)

Workers in the gig economy are being exposed to coronavirus infection because the government is failing to enforce EU safety at work regulations, The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has said.

The union has written to the Department for Work and Pensions threatening legal action if the duty of care is not extended to include those who are not employees.

If the government failed to respond, the IWGB said, it may launch a judicial review of what it alleges is failure to enforce the law.

Courier drivers carrying samples for testing that may contain coronavirus are particularly at risk, the letter to the DWP states. “These workers have not been provided with advice or PPE of even the most basic sort, despite the fact that they are evidently exposed to a high risk of infection.”

 

How will adland’s freelance industry and gig economy change due to COVID-19? (Campaign)

Even before COVID-19 hit the world, the gig economy was blossoming within adland, but now, the freelance world could have an even bigger surge due to the pandemic.

Moving forward, we’re all going to have to run a little leaner and start staffing to the valleys, not the peaks, which should bode well for freelancers. This experience is also teaching us all how to collaborate better with people, both inside and outside agencies. 

Outsourcing marketing work to consultants and freelancers is being used as a stopgap to keep the “lights” on, short of investing in full-time salaries and benefits. This approach also gives them the flexibility to be more adaptable to the needs of the moment so they can scale work up and down based on the needs of the marketing organization. 

And, if these consultants and freelancers play their cards right, there could be a post-pandemic new-normal where marketing departments inside enterprise brands leverage freelancers instead of bringing back furloughed staff or hiring anew. 

Even before COVID-19, the freelance economy was the fastest-growing market segment in the U.S with more than 35 percent of workers making up the gig-economy. 

In the last couple of months, particularly around COVID-19, the broader environment has inadvertently accelerated trends with more talent moving to freelance-based work, more companies are being better served by flexible support than retainer-based agency relationships and more brands are continuing to rethink the size of their internal teams. 

 

L’Officiel Reducing Print as Freelancers Demand Long Overdue Payments (WWD

L’Officiel magazine is feeling the effects of the massive shift in global advertising and consumption due to the coronavirus, but a group of former contributors claim issues with getting paid far predate the pandemic.

CEO Benjamin Eymère insisted the company is financially sound overall, currently getting some financing from an unnamed European bank during a “complex time” and looking forward to a “strong second half of the year” buoyed by advertorial initiatives.

At least 20 contributors, mainly writers and photographers whose work was published in late 2018 through late 2019, have gone unpaid, with multiple requests for payment to senior staff and executives going generally unheeded. 

Some of the contributors seeking payment were on the masthead for a time and others were treated as normal staff would be, working full-time hours and having to request days off. But all were only given 1099 tax forms to fill out, meaning they were employed as freelancers.

As a group, past L’Officiel contributors in the U.S. alone claim to be owed just under $30,000. Overall, contributors claiming they are owed money have outstanding invoices ranging from around $1,000 to upward of $5,000 and, in one instance, a former contributor is owed more than $10,000.

L’Officiel leadership is said to have initially agreed to a payment schedule for owed U.S. contributors, meaning the publisher would pay off its debt to them in installments because it couldn’t do so upfront. 

The agreement was revoked as soon as the coronavirus took hold, with the company citing related financial disruptions.

 

Should fashion freelancers unionise? (Vogue Business)

The Covid-19 crisis has brought to light the lack of protection of freelancers and independent workers in the UK and US, forcing governments to adjust their policies to include them in income support schemes and sick leave.

The crisis has also accentuated solidarity and camaraderie between fashion freelance workers, who have started to think about unionisation and self-organising.

While organisations lobbying the government for the fashion sector and protecting freelancers exist, some think a formal protecting body specifically dedicated to fashion independent workers is needed to address industry-specific issues.

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