Harman calls for arts workers’ support

Former shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has demanded safeguards for freelance arts workers.

In an open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the MP for Camberwell and Peckham has called on him to ensure that those working in the creative industries not protected as employed or self-employed are not left behind in  the government’s income support measures, after she had been contacted by “a number of deeply anxious constituents working in theatre, TV, film and other creative industries”.

“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” she wrote. “This will disproportionately hit those in the creative industries.

“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 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 while her universal credit allowance is not enough to pay her rent.

Harman said newly self-employed people should be able 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.

“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.”

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