After what could’ve been a challenging year for the contracting community passed without being, well, quite so challenging (evidence here and here), more positive news was received today in the 41-page shape of Julie Deane’s government commissioned independent report on self-employment. You can read Deane’s report in full here (and we encourage you to do so), but the takeaway was one many contractors, and the self-employed in general, would wholeheartedly agree with: more support is required.
Deane argues that the self-employed have a right to be placed on more equal footing with employees when it comes to rites many of us take for granted, whether that’s starting a family or simply having an adequate space in which to work. The report makes very clear that self-employment figures have reached an unparalleled level, and will likely continue to grow strongly (it’s estimated that 4.6 million people in the UK are now self-employed – an astounding 15% of the entire workforce). Deane goes on to underline the crucial economic impact the self-employed have made, and that the growth experienced in recent years would not have been possible without their substantial contribution.
Those choosing to be self-employed, she says, should not be disadvantaged from the off: “It is important that with the increased growth in self-employment, and the subsequent benefits that this group brings to the economy, that there are systems in place to support the self-employed in the same way as the employed.”
Deane recommends that advice and support for the self-employed, often sorely lacking in the current environment, should be made more readily available. She suggests an impartial central portal as a focal point for contractors and freelancers who wish to seek support – a recommendation we’re very much behind here at Kingsbridge.
As we’ve seen many times over the last few years, the definition of what exactly a self-employed person is and does remains nebulous and ill-defined. This, Deane says, must be rectified:
“The description of ‘self-employed’ applies to a wide variety of individuals and sectors and there is currently no clear understanding of the employment status within many of these groups. The lack of a legal definition of self-employment is causing an issue. Simplification and clarification with a single definition for tax and employment law is desired and should be considered.”
Other areas are also identified as having considerable room for improvement. Deane singled out maternity and paternity allowance as one such area particularly ripe for revision, suggesting that the self-employed should have similar levels of access to maternity pay as employees do, and that government support should be made “consistent whether the beneficiary is employed or self-employed”.
Numerous other resources that sit gathering cobwebs were also highlighted. Deane’s suggestion of creating shared work spaces in local libraries is an excellent one – bringing life to often underused public spaces whilst also making appropriate environments for work available.
What action the government will take remains to be seen, but we add our words of support to Ms. Deane’s review and hope that it becomes more than just a cursory gesture towards appeasing the self-employed. What did you think of the Review? Join the conversation in the comments below, or let us know over on our Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn pages.