Gosh that was quite a Christmas, wasn’t it? Although most of us had made scaled-back, low-key festive plans, the discovery of a new variant of COVID-19 spreading fast in the south east of the UK scuppered most of what was left of them, with a new Tier 4 being introduced just days before Christmas. Our bubbles were well and truly popped. Then, before we’d even eaten the last of the mince pies, rising infection numbers and hospitalisations prompted another escalation of the COVID restrictions, with PM Boris Johnson addressing the nation on 4th January to declare another national lockdown.
This is the third lockdown to cover the whole of England, and Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have similarly strict rules with a “stay at home” message. We’re all getting to be dab hands at this now, right? We’ve booked our supermarket delivery slots, stocked up on snacks, and buried ourselves under blankets for a winter hibernation. However, the rules are slightly different in this lockdown to both the first one in March and the “circuit breaker” in November , so in this blog we take a look at what they are and what they mean for freelancers.
Work from home, unless you cannot
We know a lot of freelancers were homeworkers before the pandemic – and if you were, you’re basically the expert on this now, and not much changes. Even those freelancers whose work usually takes them out and about probably spent much of last year working from home, so hopefully this isn’t too big of an adjustment. The meetings go back on Zoom, the office chat goes back on Slack, and you can tuck that Oyster card away for now. As it’s winter this time, you may find yourself with higher gas and electricity bills as the cold bites and you need to stop your fingers from freezing to the keyboard. Don’t forget you can claim costs towards working from home or running a home office as business expenses, which may reduce your tax bill.
The rules of the lockdown do (currently) allow you to continue to go out to work if your job can’t be done from home. While out you should follow the rules on social distancing, wear a mask if you take public transport, and make sure your business is operating in a COVID-secure way.
Schools are closed – but nurseries and early years remain open
A big difference between this lockdown and the November one is that the Government has taken a dramatic step that they said they did not want to have to take: to close schools to most pupils. Freelancing parents may therefore find themselves having to play teacher as well as trying to get their projects completed. It’s a very tough job – but we know how flexible, resilient and inventive our freelancers can be. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s always CBeebies. It’s educational. We won’t judge.
Children identified as vulnerable and children whose parents are critical workers may still attend school. The critical worker list has been expanded since last March so if you are finding it impossible to work with children at home, it may be worth checking to see if your job or your partner’s job is now covered by it. However, schools are reporting much higher demand for places this time and the advice still remains that if you can possibly keep your children at home, you should.
Outdoor exercise is still allowed
In the dark depths of winter, working from home, never leaving the house – it’s an ideal recipe for poor mental health. This is your friendly reminder that the rules still allow you to leave your house for exercise, and that as much as you don’t fancy going out in the cold, it’s probably a good idea. Green spaces have a documented positive effect on mental wellbeing, reducing stress and anxiety. A walk, cycle ride or run in the fresh air will leave you feeling ready to tackle the next job on your to-do list, whether that’s a client meeting, a maths lesson or that unfinished tax return.
There is hope – the vaccine is here
This week saw the approval of Moderna, the third COVID-19 vaccine to be licensed for use in the UK, and the NHS are now publishing daily updates on the number of people vaccinated. There’s an ambitious target for this: to get 13.9 million people vaccinated by mid-February. The vaccine is being prioritised for the groups who are most clinically vulnerable and those who care for them. As the jab is rolled out and the most vulnerable are protected, there’s hope that this will mean things can start to open up again. Roll on, spring!
We hope all our freelancers and their families and friends are staying safe in the latest lockdown. Remember that Dinghy is here to support freelancers in tough times. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the details of government support for freelancers, and bringing you news of how the fourth Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant will work when we get it. If you need a fresh freelancer insurance policy to start the new year, you can get a quote in minutes on our website. Stay home, stay safe freelancers!