UK Music’s chief executive Michael Dugher has called on the government to protect self-employed workers in the music industry ahead of changes to the Universal Credit benefits system next week.
The ‘surplus earnings’ changes, which come into effect on 9 April, could affect an estimated 34 percent of the 675,000-strong self-employed creative industry workforce, according to the head of the music industry trade body.
The changes mean self-employed people, such as musicians, artists, managers, producers and concert crews who are prone to fluctuating finances, could be taken off the benefit after months where they earn more than £2,500.
They may also receive vastly reduced benefits in future months, and this threshold could be reduced to just £300 in a year’s time, Dugher has warned.
The rule will affect festival workers the most, as they have busy periods of employment in the summer months but may receive low pay for the rest of the year.
The wider live music industry, which contributed £1bn to the UK economy from music tourism in 2016, could also be hit.
Dugher has written to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Esther McVey, outlining his concerns.
He said: ‘Self-employment is at the heart of what is Britain’s £4.4bn music industry. We should be making life easier, not harder, for self-employed people in the industry.
‘This is a complex policy and one which the government need to explain clearly to the thousands of self-employed people working in the music industry who may be affected by it.
‘Reducing the “surplus earnings” threshold to £300 in 12 months could act as a huge deterrent for talented people seeking self-employed careers in music, and will undoubtedly make the industry less diverse, and ultimately less successful.
‘To get this policy right, the government should commit from the outset to maintaining the £2,500 threshold for at least the first two years and urgently review the minimum income.’