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Freelances in a time of quarantine

IN PRINCIPLE, some freelances in this time of disease could look on the bright side. Self-isolate in the fastness of your garret and surely clients will come flocking, whether for words to fill their pages or for your skills in remote sub-editing. Of course for photographers the irksome necesssity to go out to where the pictures are puts the kibosh on this fantasy.

And what if - heaven forfend - you come down with Covid-19 yourself? The government hasn't thought of you, and there are efforts to remind it.

On 4 March Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, called on the government to make statutory sick pay available to all workers: "Unless we sort out our sick pay rules and make them fair, many workers are going to face that invidious choice of do they pay the bills, put food on the table, or do they follow government health advice to self-isolate if they've got symptoms? No-one should be out of pocket for doing the right thing."

Later that day the UK Prime Minister announced that "the health secretary will bring forward, as part of our emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow the payment of statutory sick pay from the very first day you are sick instead of four days under the current rules..."

Not quite the same thing. For what it's worth, there's a petition noting that "4.8 million people are registered self-employed in the UK... It would be easy enough to work out what each person is entitled to based on their tax returns." So: "Include self-employed in statutory sick pay." We've signed.

The same day it was reported that the government planned measures for "businesses with short-term cash flow problems, including giving them longer to pay bills". Some time after the Freelance Tweeted "That's freelances doubly-stuffed, then", this phrase disappeared from the BBC report. We're looking into it.