LOCKDOWN 2: WHICH FREELANCERS CAN CONTINUE WORKING?

When the government announced a second nationwide lockdown for the UK earlier this month, freelancers we’re again left wondering if and how they would continue working.

Ambiguous guidelines and rules have caused confusion among many freelancers, particularly the likes of make up artists, photographers, nail technicians and hairstylists, whose jobs require close contact with their clients.

In an article published on the Freelancer Club’s website last week for example, freelance photographers Ivan Weiss and Nadia Correia both had slightly different views on how the current lockdown might affect their businesses. While Ivan was fairly certain that he would have to shut down his London-based portrait photography services for November’s lockdown, Nadia, a fashion and beauty photographer, was hopeful that she may be able to continue working in some capacity.

It seems that a lack of sector specific guidelines from the government has caused much of this uncertainty. So, I decided to do a bit of digging.

My first port of call was the official government website, where one would expect to find a detailed breakdown of lockdown restrictions for every sector. 

As you’ll see from the following information, the details on the government's website are rather broad and ambiguous and it's therefore no surprise that many freelancers, specifically those working in close physical contact with their clients, have been left confused, seeking further clarification about restrictions.  

Here’s some of the messaging I came across on the government’s website:

“You must not leave or be outside of your home unless where permitted by law. This may include: Work and volunteering. You can leave home for work purposes, or to provide voluntary or charitable services, where you cannot do this from home.”

Another point on the same page states that in order to reduce social contacts, the government’s regulations ”require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services.” What a line! They go on to say that these businesses include:

“Personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. It is also prohibited to provide these services in other peoples’ homes.”

 

Press workers

 

While those working in any capacity in the beauty industry appear to be prohibited to work during lockdown, it appears that those working in TV and film are exempt in certain circumstances such as, “Professional film and TV filming (in retail, entertainment and leisure venues, as well as visitor attractions).”

Long winded, clumsy statements on the government's website do not empower freelancers, among other workers, to gain a clear, comprehensive understanding of what exactly they can and can’t do during the current lockdown. 

It seems that some government bodies, such as the police force, have even had trouble understanding, and hence following the government’s November guidelines thus far. 

On Saturday, journalists covering an anti-lockdown protest in London were threatened with arrest by police at the protest. Journalists are considered as key workers during lockdown and therefore are allowed to cover such events. The police on duty were obviously not aware of this. The MET have since issued an apology to the journalists involved.

According to the NUJ, individuals working in media, including journalists, videographers and photographers are permitted to work as usual at present, covering necessary events and stories in order to keep citizens informed. 

It’s important that freelancers are aware of the events which can and cannot take place this month. With the exception of couples where one person is very ill and not expected to recover, events like weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted to take place during November’s lockdown.

 

As countless freelancers continue to be excluded from the government's Self Employed Income Support Scheme, the least Rishi Sunak and his party could have done prior to the current lockdown, was provide them with a clear and detailed breakdown of what each freelance category is and is not permitted to do over the next four weeks. 

Uncertainty at the best of times is frustrating. Uncertainty when your back’s to the wall and you’ve been left financially unsupported by your government for months on end, is a different story.

The government needs to do better.

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