Five million people are self-employed – here is how to secure their vote

Posted On: 
1st November 2019

At a critical juncture for the UK, we need self-employment and our flexible labour market to be firing on all cylinders. IPSE’s Manifesto sets out policy recommendations on Brexit, taxation, benefits and broadband that would enable us to do just that. 

Increasing the availability of workhubs or co-working spaces in the UK’s towns and cities could also incubate more small businesses, as well as innovation and collaboration, says IPSE.
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This election offers all political parties a golden opportunity to set out how the next government can support self-employment and develop new approaches to the modern world of work. The prize if they do is substantial: winning the trust of nearly 5 million voters across a diverse range of ages, backgrounds and sectors in every part of the country.

Self-employed people contribute £305bn to the UK economy and bring much-needed flexibility, skills and innovation to the public and private sectors – they are the lifeblood of the UK economy.

However, the UK’s tax and employment system does not work well enough for them.

A Brexit deal that works for the self-employed

IPSE’s Confidence Index has highlighted how Brexit has caused uncertainty, putting investment decisions on hold and negatively affecting freelancers’ confidence in their businesses for the last three years.

As long as leaving without a Brexit deal remains a possibility, the government should ensure the UK’s smallest businesses are considered in its preparatory guidance notes with a dedicated section focused on small businesses and the self-employed. Longer term, freelancers want to see access to the Single Market for services and the free movement of skilled professionals prioritised.

Maintaining these will enable freelancers to remain competitive when looking to win work overseas. It will ensure the UK’s self-employment success story continues regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

A secure financial future

There is clearly an opportunity for any political party that vows to support self-employment. We believe the next government should be pioneering a bold approach that looks to lift the burden of admin and provide greater clarity across a range of areas.

Irregular income is the number one concern of the self-employed. A new Government can offer freelancers a secure financial future through a review of the tax system to clarify issues such as IR35, clamp down on late payment and enable better access to financial products like mortgages and pensions.

The government should drop the harsh retrospective approach HMRC has taken on the Loan Charge until the conclusion of the ongoing independent review.

A fair deal on rights and support

The government has an important role to play in ensuring there is clarity about who is genuinely self-employed and what they should reasonably be entitled to. Confusion about employment status is at the heart of many of the tax and legal problems that freelancers encounter.

The UK needs a statutory legal definition of self-employment.

Many self-employed people are excluded from reasonable support. A more inclusive approach to freelancers would benefit them in their work and home life and ensure they can continue to add value to the UK economy.

Freelancers deserve adequate paternity and maternity rights, which will support them to take up training. The welfare system, particularly Universal Credit, must be more sympathetic to their needs.

If the apprenticeship levy was broadened into a wider skills levy, it would give businesses – including recruitment companies – the flexibility to invest in their self-employed workers and offer them different types of training.

The best place to be a business

While the UK is generally a good place to start a business, there are many practical difficulties that mean for many people it is not possible to become – and remain – a freelancer.

As freelancers work at home and on the move, priorities should include, firstly, improved broadband and mobile coverage across the UK. A new Government should commit to super-fast broadband service for all by 2025, and hold to the commitment to ensure the majority of the population are covered by a 5G signal by 2027.

Increasing the availability of workhubs or co-working spaces in the UK’s towns and cities could also incubate more small businesses, as well as innovation and collaboration. 

The new world of work is agile, flexible, digital and connected – it is now time for politicians to respond in this election and build a policy environment to match.

To read IPSE’s full Manifesto, click HERE.