Discrimination against the Self-Employed
As a self-employed person, I have never felt more discriminated against than I do right now.
It has become apparent to me in this Covid-19 situation that the self employed and contractors, are amongst the most highly discriminated workers in existence.
I had dinner with some friends this week, and one gratefully pointed out: 'I can't believe the government have helped everyone! Like - everyone!' I had to bite my tongue. The government have not helped everyone. I'm not personally attacking the government or saying their choices during covid can have been easy. But does that mean I have to be OK with the fact that 99% of my friends who work in the entertainment industry have not been helped by the government like everyone else? No.
So many friends have fallen between the gaps of grants and furlough throughout this situation, that my heart bleeds for them. If a school teacher friend, or a sales executive, or a lawyer had to go and work at a fast food chain just to make ends meet during covid, there would be absolute uproar. People would not stand for it. But we resourceful entertainment workers seem to have to make ends meet alone constantly, and it's almost accepted by society. And it is not right.
Friends of mine who work in TV are now working in Tesco, Asda and Dominos Pizza. These are all perfectly good jobs, but they are not careers that my friends had trained for, got into student debt for, paid their taxes for. Why is it OK for all other career types to be rescued and for ours to not?
You could argue - well, the entertainment industry doesn't bring anything to the economy. But this is the biggest load of nonsense. Creative industries have contributed more than £111bn to the UK economy in 2018 alone, equivalent to £306 million every single day. Without entertainment, our government's income would seriously be lacking. But it is STILL not recognised as important. And I don't understand why.
It is hard enough being self employed or a contract worker. You are used to working more than full time hours for less than minimum wage pay, just to fight for working in an industry you want to. You have no employee benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, pension top ups, and you have increased pressure on yourself and responsibilities. You take all that in your stride because you love what you do. Oh, and you pay your taxes just like everybody else.
I was prompted to write these feelings because at present my partner and I are trying to buy a house. Trying being the operative word. People say buying a house is stressful. Well try buying a house during Covid-19, when both parties are self employed and contracted.
Between the two of us, our annual joint income is between £43,500 and £51,000 per year. We have a deposit of more than 25% of our house value. We have both been working for over five years in our respective careers with no more than a six-week gap between jobs over that entire period and our annual incomes have never dipped below £40,000 in that time. And this may not be enough.
The prejudice we have received when trying to buy a house, purely from being self employed and contracted is shocking. It's like our incomes don't count. Which makes absolutely no sense to me. If I was hiring permanent employees for my business and they had been there for three months, the banks would say they are more secure clients to lend to than myself - the owner of the business. Even though I am their boss, and I can make them redundant or sack them if I wish, I myself, as the actual owner of the business, am more of a risk according to banks. It makes zero sense to me.
We have had mortgage brokers turn us away, saying we shouldn't be looking for a mortgage, banks tell us that because I applied for the covid-19 self employed grant, they have to take my last FIVE years earnings instead of the usual TWO, which meant their offer to us dropped by £20,000, purely because five years ago I was still at university and it's ridiculous to judge someone's income in their early twenties as a student, as opposed to their late twenties when they have been running a successful business for two years. Our current potential lender has come back to us five times now, asking for more documents of proof of my partner's earnings from over eighteen months ago, even though he has proof of earnings for the last sixteen months (or eight years depending on how you look at it), and proof of a contract for the next six months with the view to extend it.
We've organised and provided financial spreadsheets, payslips, histories of employment, proof of earnings, letters of recommendation, tax returns, P60s, contracts, bank statements and dozens of other documents. Yet it still doesn't seem to be enough.
Worst of all, even family members have come forward and told us they are worried for us and maybe we shouldn't try and get a mortgage. Despite other family members being furloughed, with no guarantee of a job, paying a mortgage right now, my business which is doing fine, is not enough to reassure even those closest to us that we should be able to get a mortgage, just like everybody else.
It isn't right. It is not OK.
Covid-19 may be proof to the majority of the population that the government care about the economy, and saving their jobs. But sadly, for the more than two million of us working our socks off in the entertainment industry, this pandemic has proven to us once again that we suffer more discrimination and bias against us, than any other industry in the UK.
I am going to end on a well known saying so true to these times. Doctors, nurses are what keep us alive and they are brilliant. But artists, writers, musicians are what we stay alive for.