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Rachel Reeves MP: Labour's economic plan is not speaking for self-employed people

Rachel Reeves MP: Labour's economic plan is not speaking for self-employed people


3 min read Partner content

Rachel Reeves MP noted that many people became self-employed after the financial crisis at IPSE's Labour Conference event. 

Shadow Minister for Business, Bill Esterson MP, has called for rights and protections for self-employed to be strengthened.

He stated that the UK should try to learn form how Europe treated its self-employed workers at ‘Beyond the Gig Economy: A vision for self-employment’, an event organised by was the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) at Labour Conference.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy also attended the event, and called for a statutory definition of self-employment to eliminate bogus self-employment claims.

IPSE is the voice of the UK’s self-employed population who make up one in seven people working today. Also speaking on the panel, Andy Chamberlain, deputy director of policy, IPSE noted that there were now 5m self-employed people in the economy, an increase from 3.8m before the financial crisis.

Pull or push into self-employment

According to IPSE’s own research most self-employed people were making a choice to become self-employed and saw their work form as a liberation. But Chamberlain admitted there were cases where people are forced to be self-employed.

He spoke about the opportunities of self-employment, such as flexibility, noting benefits for people with disability and mothers who care for their children part time. 

Rachel Reeves MP pointed out that some mothers chose self-employment as they feel disadvantaged or discriminated by the labour market.

Labour plan for workers

Miatta Fahnbulleh, CEO of the New Economics Foundation, argued that Labour’s agenda on workers was not really speaking to the self-employed. Rachel Reeves agreed.

Reeves noted that many people became self-employed after the financial crisis as they had no other option and expressed frustration at the fact that no legislation was introduced based on the Good Work review.

A statutory definition of self-employment

Chamberlain called for a statutory definition on self – employment, which was echoed by Reeves who explained this should help with ridding of "bogus self-employment ".

Sarah Owen, GMB trade union’s parliament officer, said the onus should be on employers to prove that there were not involved in bogus self-employment.


Fahnbulleh said that local authorities have a role to play and argued in favour of hubs for self-employed people, in spaces they could use for working and holding meetings, where they could have access to IT services.

She added that these could also provide accounting and support specialised for self-employed and most importantly peer support.

The unions' Role

Owen spoke of a case that GMB trade union had led against Hermes, where a worker was told he was fired due to missing work on the day his baby was born despite having arranged with a colleague to cover his shift.

She spoke against TFL's decision to extend the license for Uber.

Speaking passionately about cases of 'bogus self employment', she asked "how many times does GMB have to win in court for the Government to take action?"

Owen said that Hermes and GMB now had a partnership, which led to the company introducing holiday pay.  


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