Small firms up calls for sole trader support as Universal Credit claims soar

  • 19 May 2020

New Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance and seeking support under the Universal Credit “searching for work” conditionality rose by 69% to over two million between March and April.

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research shows that close to one in ten (8%) business owners have applied for universal credit, with close to a third (29%) having their applications rejected.


FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “While employees have been given some certainty about the months ahead following a much-needed extension of the job retention scheme, sole traders have been left in the dark.

“More than two million self-employed people have applied for the self-employment income support scheme which is encouraging. But they’re now facing a total earnings cliff-edge in less than two weeks’ time. Many work in sectors which will be among the last to have restrictions eased.

“Thousands are fearing for their futures. They need assurances urgently. That includes those who have been left out of grant and income support initiatives entirely, not least company directors who are unable to furlough themselves.  

“Today’s figures underscore the importance and success of the job retention scheme. We now need to see detail on the envisaged terms of use for the scheme beyond July when more of a financial burden will be placed on employers, to ensure those additional requirements are affordable.


“Keeping people in work – whether they’re employees or self-employed – will be critical to reducing a scarring of the economy and achieving a v-shaped recovery.”

Meanwhile, a new online service will be launched on 26 May for small and medium-sized employers to recover Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) payments they have made to their employees, the government announced today (19 May 2020).

The Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme was announced at Budget as part of a package of support measures for businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This scheme will allow small and medium-sized employers, with fewer than 250 employees, to apply to HMRC to recover the costs of paying coronavirus-related SSP.


Employers will be able to make their claims through a new online service from 26 May. This means they will receive repayments at the relevant rate of SSP that they have paid to current or former employees for eligible periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020.

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