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Smart is a Europe-wide network that aims to improve the working conditions of self-employed people: As a cooperative, Smart currently covers nine countries with over 95,000 members. The special thing: Smart members who are self-employed can be employed on a permanent basis for a certain period of time - and are insured through Smart. In the Corona crisis, their concept has taken on a completely different significance: Self-employed people in Germany are not entitled to short-time work benefits, while Smart members are. How exactly does the concept work?
CCB Magazine: Hello, Magdalena Ziomek and Alicja Möltner, you founded Smart six years ago. How does your system work?
Alicja Möltner: We are a joint venture and with our model we offer our members the freedom of a self-employed person and the social security of an employee. In concrete terms, this means that our members have the opportunity to carry out orders on behalf of the cooperative. Many creative people today have the problem that they have to choose between different forms of work and orders. We solve this problem: While the member is still responsible for agreeing the assignment with the client and providing the service, Smart takes over the financial liability and administrative handling of the assignment. We then invoice the customer for the service and also take care of such matters as travel expense accounting, reimbursement of expenses or even the dunning process. The members then receive an employment contract for their orders. For employed members, Smart also pays the social security contributions and wage tax and pays the member a monthly salary. For each order processed via Smart, a total fee of 7 percent of the net order amount flows to our cooperative. This is used to finance the jointly used services.
CCB Magazine: Do you have a concrete example to explain your model?
Magdalena Ziomek: I will give you two examples. First: before the current crisis, many tour guides carried out their assignments through the cooperative. Their work is often very seasonal. In summer there is a lot going on, in winter it is rather slack. But in our employment model they can generate a stable monthly salary through their income. Because if they have confirmed orders in the summer, the cooperative goes into advance payment and pays a salary in advance based on future orders. The second example is more general: many creative people today have to spend a lot of time on bureaucratic stuff. This is a burden for many, because it means they have less time to develop their work. This is where we can help. We can write the invoices to your clients for you and get you in line. That way you save time and have an affordable social insurance.
CCB Magazin: Fair enough. But now it's a Corona crisis, many independent creative people have fallen into existential distress. With the emergency aid of the state of Berlin, they were able to apply for 5,000 euros as a solo self-employed person without any red tape to make ends meet. Now the expenses are being paid by the federal government as Soforthilfe II. What are the advantages of Smart membership in this respect compared to emergency aid? In the end, the self-employed only want one thing: to get their money.
Alicja Möltner: Yes, but that is only one side of the coin. It's true, in a unique feat of strength, the Investitionsbank Berlin (IBB) transferred a 'Corona grant' of 5,000 euros to over 100,000 Berlin solo self-employed people by the beginning of April - without much examination and in an application procedure that was almost too simple for German standards. The money may even be used for personal living expenses such as rent and health insurance. The problem is, however, that new applications for the subsidy since 6 April are only financed by federal funds - and federal funds may only be used for ongoing operating expenses that many self-employed people do not even have - so they fall off the grid. In addition, many questions remain unanswered: What if the 5,000 euros in emergency aid is no longer sufficient? And what about a future check to see whether you were really eligible to apply? What we are doing now: our salaried members who are affected by loss of orders are now entitled to short-time work benefits.
Our members have the possibility to execute orders on behalf of the cooperative. Many creative people today have the problem that they have to choose between different forms of work and orders. We solve this problem. In addition, members who were Smart members before the Corona crisis are entitled to short-time work compensation
CCB Magazin: That means that I am self-employed, I am not entitled to short-time work compensation, I can be employed temporarily or permanently via Smart, and then I am entitled?
Magdalena Ziomek: Exactly. However, it is important to know that short-time work benefits are only available to our salaried members who were already employed by Smart before the Corona crisis. If they are affected by Corona's loss of orders, they will continue to receive 60 percent of their previous net salary (parents: 67 percent) - financed by the state. In comparison to the one-off 'helicopter money' in the form of immediate aid grants, the receipt of short-time work benefits not only has the advantage that they can continue to be paid even in the event of a long-term slump in sales - currently up to 12 months. This also means that there is no legal uncertainty with which many self-employed persons are currently struggling in relation to the new emergency aid measures.
CCB Magazin:Are there any restrictions in your country? Who can be a comrade, who can't?
Magdalena Ziomek: Anyone who lives in Germany can become a comrade - by buying at least one share in a cooperative. One share currently costs 50 euros. There is no monthly membership fee. Important to know: Only services that do not require a licence can be billed via Smart - also no sale of goods. And in order to be employed via Smart and subject to social insurance contributions, the majority of the self-employed activities must be carried out via Smart and an employment contract must be generated from this, so that employment with the cooperative is the main source of income. Non-EU nationals require a residence permit for this, which includes full access to the labor market in Germany. Otherwise there are no restrictions. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. At the moment there are also regular info-sessions as online livestream. Look here. Look here.
Are you looking for information on emergency relief measures in times of Corona? We have compiled all the information you need. Look here.
Here you will also find important FAQs on Emergency Aid II.
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