Public sector contractors to receive COVID-19 help
Thousands of public sector contractors engaged across a range of Government departments, executive agencies and non departmental public bodies are set to receive income support should they not be able to work due to the COVID-19 crisis.
These contractors, who do not qualify for the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme and slip through the cracks of the Job Retention Scheme, will be paid 80% of their pay rate up to a maximum of £2,500 per month if they can’t work because of illness, self-isolation or temporary closure of offices.
A recently updated document on the Government website states this financial help will apply to contingent workers engaged by “all central Government departments, their executive agencies and non departmental public bodies.” Meanwhile, “other public sector contracting authorities are encouraged to apply” these rules to contingent workers, who the Government identifies as PSC contractors, umbrella workers and PAYE workers – which presumably refers to agency PAYE workers.
Government takes “important step”
On the whole, this development has been welcomed by experts in the contracting world, given limited company contractors were said to have been all-but “ignored” by the Government recently. In response to the news, Qdos said the Chancellor “has taken an important step in protecting many of the contractors working on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.”
The firm’s CEO, Seb Maley, then went on to say that “making this support available to locum doctors and nurses engaged by the NHS, who are working long hours and risking their lives to help the UK beat this virus, is the right thing to do.”
Professional staffing body, APSCo, also appreciated the news, with the body’s Legal Counsel, Tania Bowers, explaining the guidance “brings further clarity” to the situation and “states that they (public sector bodies) should continue to pay 80% of rate and fees to recruiters which is obviously good news.”
Private sector “overlooked again”
But while it’s a positive development that many contractors, umbrella and agency PAYE workers will be protected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it has again brought to light the lack of support available to those working in the private sector.
Seb Maley said: “As vital as this initiative may prove to be for NHS contractors and others working in the public sector, there are hundreds of thousands of individuals in the private sector who have and will lose their income but have been overlooked again.”
Echoing Maley’s thoughts was IPSE’s Andy Chamberlain, who previously urged the Government to “consider the plight of limited company directors and develop bespoke support measures for them, such as temporary tax breaks or grants. The self-employed sector is complex and diverse, and the Government must keep adjusting its aid package to support as many parts of this vital workforce as possible.”
You can read the Government’s guidance notes on payments to suppliers for contingent workers impacted by COVID-19 here.