Coronavirus: responding to the UK Government announcement on support for the self-employed

Response to the Chancellor's announcement and template email for writing to your MP

Sight test

Members will be aware of the announcement made yesterday (26 March) by the Chancellor regarding the UK Government’s scheme for the self-employed. More details are available here.

This scheme provides for taxable government grants, broadly comparable to the ‘furlough’ support provided to employees, but only for those who meet the eligibility criteria. 

Eligibility criteria

In order to be eligible, you need to be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership and you:

  • Have submitted your Income Tax Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018–19 (although those who did not do this by the due date of 31 January 2020 can still submit one up until 23 April 2020)
  • Traded in the tax year 2019–20
  • Are trading when you apply, or would be except for COVID-19
  • Intend to continue to trade in the tax year 2020–21
  • Have lost trading/partnership trading profits due to COVID-19
  • Self-employed trading profits (not turnover) must also be less than £50,000  
  • More than half of your income must come from self-employment

Details of the scheme

  • The new scheme will pay self-employed people taxable grants worth 80% of average monthly income, capped at £2,500 pcm 
  • Self-employed people appear to be able to claim these grants and continue to do business (so it may be appropriate to see if any practices you work with might benefit from using your using your services to provide urgent care, especially if their employees are furloughed) 
  • The scheme will be open for at least three months but is unlikely to be up and running before the end of June
  • HMRC will contact those who are eligible and invite them to complete a form through gov.uk when the scheme is up and running. (The government guidance says that if you are contacted by someone claiming to be from HMRC and asking for your details or for you to click on a link this is likely to be a scam, as the government has said this will be dealt with through gov.uk)

We know from past member surveys that a substantial number of optometrists earn more than £50,000 a year, and this will include self-employed locum and that that eligibility criterion will therefore be problematic for many locum optometrists. 

Our teams are working hard on these issues and are planning to draw together examples we have of deserving cases that are missing out, and then publicising those and writing to the government asking them to fix the obvious problems arising with the scheme.

Please refer to other sources of support at the following links:

If you’re a director of your own company and paid through PAYE, you may be able to get support using the Job Retention Scheme

We appreciate that this is a hugely worrying time and we are all working hard at the AOP to support you as much as possible. 

Locum members: write to your MP 

We have drafted a template email that locums and others can use to write to their MP about the unfair effects of the support for self-employed workers compared to employed workers. Please use the template and let us know if you receive a reply.

You can find out or confirm who your MP is by entering your postcode on the Parliament website.