Freelancers’ earnings have dropped 30pc this year and the self-employed have received a fraction of the income support handed to employees.
They now face a bleak winter. State support for those in need will only cover 40pc of their average earnings, half the 80pc wage support on offer at the start of the pandemic.
This, alongside the spectre of heftier taxation after the crisis, is why more than a quarter of a million have given up on the freelancer dream and returned to employment this year.
This newspaper spoke to some of those affected.
Project management consultant Faizan Zuberi, 40, from Devon, finished his last contract in February and has been struggling to find work since. He is racking up debt with payment holidays on his mortgage and car running into their seventh month.
As a limited company director, he was not able to claim under the self-employed support scheme. He is now looking for employed work, but said the jobs market was competitive and that there were few positions suitable to his skill set.
“I work mainly in the banking sector and became freelance after the crisis when banks were developing lots of new systems to comply with regulations.
“But I’ve missed the heyday of self-employment. The freelance dream is a myth now. Cuts to dividend allowances, tax rule changes and now the pandemic, all without the safety of sick pay and paid leave, make the risks just too high. It feels like we have been hung out to dry,” he said.
He said many of the banks he usually works for were no longer hiring due to new “IR35” tax rules which lump firms with the responsibility of policing the tax status of contractors.
He said he was also concerned about strong hints from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak that National Insurance contributions for the self-employed would increase in line with those paid by employees.