David Gauke: ‘I have sympathy for government’ over self-employed

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Former Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke has defended the government over its approach to supporting the self-employed amid the coronavirus crisis.

Currently those who work for themselves are entitled to statutory sick pay of £94 per week but the government has been under pressure to announce more help.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to unveil a plan in the daily press conference this evening, almost a week after he announced that the government would pay up to 80 per cent of salaries for workers who had been forced out of their jobs by Covid-19.

The government has faced criticism for the delay in providing similar support for self-employed people, but Mr Gauke said he had “a lot of sympathy” for it in this case.

He told talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer: “The challenge is that the government doesn’t have up to date information about the self-employed in the way that it does about this people who are employed.

“It’s not easy to identify what their recent income is…if you start looking at historic records you might have somebody who was self-employed last year but has got a job this year, are they going to get two sets of support?”

The ex-Conservative MP added that people who are self-employed are “a very diverse group”.

“Some people might be self-employed but have very, very low incomes, indeed, you might have others who are self-employed and are earning an absolute fortune.

“How do you make sure you get the right support to the right people?”

But Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth told talkRADIO's Mike Graham that workers should not have to make a choice between “health and hardship”.

On help for the self-employed, the shadow health secretary said: “It is complicated, but in some ways, you’ve just got to get it sorted now and worry about some of the finer details later on.”

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