Some 1.5million self-employed people are ‘striving to find new forms of work to get by’ during third England’s third national lockdown amid a perceived lack of support.
Industry bodies have told of a ‘resurgence of available work’ for tradespeople since the first lockdown last March, but calls are growing for them to be only allowed to do essential work in homes to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Now, scientific advice group Independent Sage has urged the Government to only allow tradespeople to enter people’s homes for work which cannot be delayed.
The workers are currently among the few sets of people you are still allowed to have inside your home – and there are no restrictions on the work they can do.
Tradespeople allowed to continue working includes – but is not limited to – people working in repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers and surveyors.
But an industry group claimed today that 1.5million self-employed people have been excluded from Government financial support since the pandemic began.
This includes many tradespeople who may be newly self-employed, work through limited companies or work on short-term pay-as-you-earn contracts.
Lorries, vans and cars on the M1 in Nottinghamshire today as the third lockdown continues
Rush-hour commuters wait for a Jubilee line train at Canada Water in East London today
Andy Chamberlain, policy director of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, told MailOnline today: ‘Since the first lockdown, many in these groups have relied on a resurgence of available work to get by.
‘The new lockdown measures are already squeezing self-employed incomes again – and if essential tradespeople are prevented from operating, it will hit their incomes further.’
What the rules say on tradesmen in homes
The UK Government is allowing tradespeople to continue working in other people’s homes during the third national lockdown in England.
They come under an exemption list including the likes of nannies, cleaners and social care workers providing support to children and families.
The list of tradespeople allowed to continue working includes – but is not limited to – people working in repair services, fitters, meter readers, plumbers and surveyors.
But the rules also say that any work by someone not living with a household should not take place in a private home or garden when it does not need to.
He continued: ‘1.5million self-employed will now have been without support for almost a year. It’s likely many in this group will be striving to find new forms of work to get by in this lockdown.’
Bringing in restrictions on what kind of work tradespeople could do might see the types of jobs limited – meaning redecorating might not be allowed.
Vital work such as replacing leaking pipes, repairing radiators and boiler repairs is likely to be allowed to continue even if new restrictions are brought in.
Mr Chamberlain added: ‘There are clear reasons for a renewed lockdown, but Government should have plugged the gaps in self-employed support first.
‘We urge them to look again at limited company directors, PAYE freelancers, the newly self-employed and other excluded groups.
‘In the case of the newly self-employed, many will this month be filing a full year’s tax return: this was the problem government originally pointed to, so it has no reason to exclude them now.’
Workers allowed to continue being in other people’s homes in England under law now also include nannies, cleaners and social care workers providing support to children and families.
Government guidance has stated that tradespeople can continue carrying out repairs and maintenance, provided that they are well and have no symptoms.
They are also advised not to carry out work in an isolating household unless it is to resolve a direct risk to their safety, such as emergency plumbing or repairs.
But guidance also states that any work by someone not living with a household should not take place in a private home or garden when it does not need to.
People can continue to move home and look around other houses during the lockdown, while removal firms and estate agents are also allowed to operate.
Susan Michie, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies and director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London, cited tradespeople when insisting that current measures need to be tougher.
She told BBC Newsnight last Friday: ‘We have mass gatherings, in terms of nurseries and religious events; cleaners, tradespeople and nannies going in and out of houses; we have a very wide definition of critical worker now.
‘You put all of that together and it means that we’re getting really mixed messages. On the one hand the Government’s saying we’re locking down, stay at home. But on the other hand, they’re saying go out and do all these jobs.’
This graphic based on Apple mobility data shows how of journeys being made on foot, by car and on public transport during England’s third lockdown is still significantly higher than in the first lockdown – but much lower than in the second lockdown
When the first lockdown began last March, there had initially been confusion of whether construction workers and tradespeople should count their jobs as essential.
RISE in drivers and walkers compared to first lockdown
The number of journeys being made on foot, by car and on public transport during England’s third lockdown is still significantly higher than in the first – but much lower than during the second, figures revealed today.
The latest mobility data has shown pedestrians, motorists and people using trains or buses are moving around more again across seven major UK cities after levels fell over the Christmas and New Year period.
The figures from Apple, based on requests for directions using its Maps app, show the UK average level based on a pre-pandemic baseline of January 2020 is 30 per cent down for walking – roughly where it was in mid-December.
While this is significantly above the figure of about 70 per cent down at the start of the first lockdown in March last year, it is still below the figure of 20 per cent down during the second lockdown in November.
The latest figure for driving is 40 per cent down – and this is also compared to 70 per cent down during the first lockdown and 20 per cent down in the second lockdown.
The data also shows public transport is 70 per cent down – compared to 85 per cent down at the start of the first lockdown, and 50 per cent during the second.
But Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said at the time that construction workers should still go to work while tradespeople could carry on attending people’s homes.
And as the weeks went on during the first lockdown and homeowners became more aware of exceptions within the restrictions, people became happier to invite workmen in – especially with many furloughed and looking to spend their time on home improvements.
Some construction firms furloughed staff initially before bringing them back in, when it became clearer that building projects could continue during lockdown provided sites were Covid-secure.
Meanwhile there have been calls for more financial help for the self-employed amid concerns that the latest Government’s business support ‘misses the mark’ because it is designed for companies with premises.
IPSE has warned that the third lockdown will have a ‘severe impact on the already struggling self-employed sector’.
It also told of concerns that there are ‘still drastic gaps in the support available to the self-employed, with over 1.5million sole directors, newly self-employed people and others still excluded’.
But the Treasury insists its Self Employment Income Support Scheme is ‘one of the most generous in the world’ and has helped more than 2.7million people so far claim £13.7billion.
The Government department said those not eligible may still be able to access its loans schemes, tax deferrals, mortgage holidays and business support grants.
Some five million self-employed taxpayers have been given an extra 12 months to pay their self-assessment tax due in January 2021, the Treasury added.
It comes as figures revealed today that the number of journeys being made on foot, by car and on public transport during England’s third lockdown is still significantly higher than in the first – but much lower than during the second.
The latest mobility data from Apple has shown pedestrians, motorists and people using trains or buses are moving around more again across seven major UK cities after levels fell over the Christmas and New Year period.