Self-employed make up almost 15% of UK workforce, new data shows

Self Employed

With talk of Brexit and IR35 reform dominating contracting and freelancing circles for some time now, the continued growth and success of the self-employed community is sometimes left behind.

But despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty and the unsettling influence of looming legislative reform that community has continued to thrive. Recently released data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the number of self-employed people in the UK rose by an impressive 63,000 to 4.84 million in the last quarter of 2018.

The data further emphasises what has been clear for some time now – that the self-employed are the bedrock of the UK’s strong labour market. Almost 15% of the entire UK workforce now work for themselves. For comparison, that’s almost as much as the public sector in its entirety.

As the Economic Policy Advisor at IPSE Ryan Barnett noted, in a just political landscape these numbers would push the UK government to acknowledge the ambition and innovation of those willing to make the leap and run their own business:

“It’s excellent to see the rise in self-employment revealed in the data. When the government celebrates the strength of the labour market, it must remember that a major part of that is down to the UK’s burgeoning self-employed sector.

As of the end of 2018, there were 4.84 million self-employed people in the country.

In a time of gloomy economic forecasts and poor GDP growth, the strength of our labour market and especially our self-employed sector is welcome good news.”

A clear question presents itself: if the self-employed community is able to grow even in the most turbulent conditions, how can we encourage more people who are currently on the precipice to make the jump and begin working for themselves?

Jonathan Lima-Matthews, Senior Policy Advisor at IPSE, believes that a good starting point would be tackling what many have referred to as the ‘scourge’ of late payment.

With many otherwise bold and innovative individuals likely holding back from taking the plunge because they are understandably unwilling to give up the safety net of a regular and reliable monthly income it is obvious that something needs to be done.

As Lima-Matthews says: “The culture of late payment is the scourge of the UK’s smallest businesses, the self-employed. It is a serious problem across the UK.

IPSE research has shown freelancers spend an average of 20 days a year chasing late payments, with 43% doing work they were not paid for at some point in their career.”

It’s also worth us pointing out that having another type of safety net in place can make things much easier. Making the move from ‘regular’ employment to contracting means that you’ll no longer be protected by an employer should you make mistakes, get injured, or cause injury to someone else during the course of your work.

At Kingsbridge we offer the most compliant and comprehensive single package of specialist contractor insurance cover on the market, allowing you to carry on with your job safe in the knowledge that you’re covered should something go wrong. Want to know more? Find out all about our insurance here, or give us a call on 01242 808740.

No matter what lies over the horizon, it’s clear that the unsung heroes who make up the self-employed community aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be here to provide support whenever it’s needed.

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