SUPPORT for workers hit by the coronavirus pandemic urgently needs to be extended to freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero-hour contracts, unions say.

Chancellor Rushi Sunak announced on Friday the UK Government would pay 80 per cent of the salaries of staff kept on by employers but self-employed workers can only access just under £95 in Universal Credit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she is "very hopeful" further measures will be introduced soon.

But the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is planning to take legal action against the UK Government for failing to "protect the wages and jobs of millions of workers".

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Paul McManus, from the Glasgow office of Betcu, the union for staff, contract and freelance workers in the media and entertainment industries, said his members are concerned about the lack of support available.

Theatres can't open without workers on zero-hour contracts, he said, adding: "The industry has effectively collapsed over night.

"We're looking for self-employed people to be treated the same way as employed people."

He added while some employers had tried to reassure workers, others "have been quick to dump staff as quickly as possible".

Mr McManus said the BBC had agreed to pay freelancers who had been booked on productions over the next four weeks. A BBC spokesman said: "Freelance colleagues are critical to producing output for our audiences.

"We'll also look to re-engage freelancers to productions which are still on-going."

But the union representative, who has been swamped with calls from worried workers, said Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), which runs the Theatre Royal and King's Theatre in Glasgow, had laid off all its zero-hour staff, a move he described as "extremely disappointing".

A spokeswoman for ATG said, following Mr Sunak's announcement, the group is consulting with industry partners to explore all options. "First and foremost in these considerations are our staff and employees," she said.

Mr McManus also sent a letter to the Scottish Government's cabinet secretary for culture Fiona Hyslop, asking for more financial support.

The IWGB says the 80 per cent wage subsidies discriminate against the gig-economy and other self-employed workers.

"Many who become sick or need to self-isolate will receive little or no sick pay," the union's general secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said. "Other who are laid off will not receive wage subsidies from the government because they are not employees."

He said the union can't stand by while "members are exposed to unnecessary risk or driven into destitution".

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has launched a petition, with more than 113,000 signatures, which asks the government to set up a temporary income protection fund.

"People should feel secure in their incomes both so that they are not putting their health, and others', at risk by going into work," the organisation says.

At her daily news conference, Ms Sturgeon said: "We're pushing for and very hopeful of seeing very soon further measures to support freelancers, the self-employed and contract workers."

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And in response to concerns, a HM Treasury spokesman said it is considering further steps following an "unprecedented packages of measures to protect millions of jobs and incomes as part of the national effort in response to coronavirus".

"This includes strengthening the safety-net for the self-employed who will benefit from a relaxation of the earnings rules for self-employed claimants under Universal Credit and deferring income tax self-assessment payments due in July 2020," he added.

"We have always said we will go further where we can and are actively considering further steps."