Harriet Harman is calling on the chancellor to ensure that people working in theatre do not get left behind by the government’s income support plans, arguing that the creative workforce will be disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis.
The Labour MP and former shadow culture secretary has written to Rishi Sunak to ask what further measures he is considering to support arts workers, claiming she has been contacted by “a number of deeply anxious constituents working in theatre, TV, film and other creative industries”.
In a letter shared publicly by Harman, she welcomed the job retention scheme, but said: “I am concerned that self-employed people, those working on a series of fixed term PAYE contracts and those operating as limited companies are not eligible. This will disproportionately hit those in the creative industries.
Problem of ppl in creative industries not protected as employed or self employed must be sorted in #Coronavirus crisis by govt. My letter to @RishiSunak: t.co/JceMO36GGr @EquityUK @bectu @TracyBrabin @CommonsDCMS @julianknight15 pic.twitter.com/aPMKIhRvUf
— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman)
Problem of ppl in creative industries not protected as employed or self employed must be sorted in #Coronavirus crisis by govt. My letter to @RishiSunak: https://t.co/JceMO36GGr @EquityUK @bectu @TracyBrabin @CommonsDCMS @julianknight15 pic.twitter.com/aPMKIhRvUf— Harriet Harman (@HarrietHarman) April 2, 2020
“The reality is they are now facing many months without work or sufficient income support as venues close and contracts halt to adhere to government guidance on social distancing.”
Harman also gave her backing to Equity’s calls to stop creative workers falling through the gaps between the two government schemes, demanding additional support for people such as parents and carers, new graduates and workers whose work includes a mixture of PAYE and self employment.
Harman said she had been contacted by a theatre freelance who worked more than 50% PAYE between 2016-19 but is now self-employed and so is not entitled to either scheme, and is unable to pay rent on the amount offered by universal credit.
She suggested allowing newly self-employed people to submit their 2019/20 tax return early and have their income assessed on that basis.
“I appreciate that developing a scheme to cover the complex and varying circumstances of self-employed people is more difficult, but there can be no justification for self-employed workers to not receive the same level of support as the employed throughout this coronavirus crisis,” she said, asking Sunak what further measures he is considering “to ensure these people are not left behind”.
“The creative industries contribute over £100 billion to the UK economy and are vital to our culture and global identity. When this crisis is over we will need this industry to be strong and at the forefront of our economic recovery,” she added.