Spring Budget 2021: the outcome for BAME entrepreneurs, women, and older apprentices

The policies revealed in the Spring Budget focused on business survival during COVID-19. But they could also protect and empower more underrepresented groups in business than it intended

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has delivered his Spring Budget speech, and unsurprisingly for many, it contained policies that seek further to protect businesses and jobs during the ongoing pandemic.

Sunak has extended the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) to the end of September 2021, benefiting female entrepreneurs. A recent survey from software firm FreeAgent found that women were more likely than men to start their own businesses this year despite COVID-19.

He confirmed that the furlough scheme would also continue until late September, which will be a relief for women who account for a large number of people who are employed in the UK’s beleaguered hospitality industry, where they have been vastly overrepresented in the number of redundancies in the sector.

As part of the terms of the extended furlough scheme, firms will be expected to contribute 10% to furloughed staff salaries in July, which will then be extended to 20% in August and September as the scheme runs out.

There will also be a £5 billion “restart grant” for non-essential retail businesses to use as they come out of lockdown restrictions, which will be music to the ears of high-street and hospitality sector businesses.

Hopefully, some of these grants will be allocated to BAME-owned businesses, which have fared badly during the pandemic due to facing statistically higher mortality rates, according to a study from last year.

With BAME-owned businesses tending to employ BAME staff and attract BAME custom, they have faced higher unemployment and infection risks where their concentration in pandemic impacted industries including leisure, retail, and hospitality, also made them vulnerable, continued the report.

In better news, hospitality and leisure businesses won’t pay business rates for the first three months, after which rates will be discounted for the last nine months of the year by 66%.

In terms of getting more people into employment and ensuring sustainable living wages, Sunak announced the increase of the national living wage to £8.91, which equates to an annual pay rise of £350 for someone working full time on the National Living Wage.

Sunak also confirmed the Government’s decision to boost incentive payments for businesses to hire apprentices of any age, encouraging people to retrain for careers in other sectors. He also said the Government would invest £126 million “to triple the number of traineeships.”

Sunak confirmed the government’s intention to further “support the lowest income and most vulnerable households” by extending the universal credit limit of 20 pounds a week for another six months and will introduce a £19 million package to tackle the rise of domestic abuse during the lockdown period.

While Sunak’s Budget announcement didn’t make explicit reference to economically empowering minorities like female employees, women-led businesses, or BAME business owners, policies like extending the furlough scheme could keep the female-heavy hospitality businesses afloat and women in a job.

BAME-owned businesses, where many operate in retail and hospitality, could also get a fighting chance at economic survival via Sunak’s “restart grant” and could benefit from the ongoing business rates holiday. But whether enough of these sorts of businesses will gain access to these schemes, only time will tell.

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