Labour told to make contracting a policy priority

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Contractors, limited companies, umbrella company contractors and sole traders could get a more central position as the Labour Party draws up its future policies.

Ahead of the party's annual conference, which began on Monday September 22nd, the Labour Finance and Industry Group (LFIG) called for a more contractor-centric policy framework. This is in response to the growing number of self employed people in the UK, particularly as figures from the Office for National Statistics show that this is now at the highest level seen for the past 40 years.

The LFIG suggested that the framework could be a Freelancers' Charter, which would offer a model for how policies for self employed people could be developed in the future.

There are three prospective policies that have been put forward by LFIG to Labour. The first says that freelance professionals in the private sector should be encouraged and assisted where it is necessary to find common ground and a common voice.

Another suggestion was that a minister should be appointed that would be responsible for freelancers. They would reflect the importance of freelancers and make sure their needs as part of the UK's workforce are being addressed.

The call for a self employment minister has also been echoed by the association of Independent Professionals and Self Employed (IPSE).

Chief executive of IPSE Chris Bryce said: "The UK's self-employed army is growing by the day and on current trends will outnumber those working in the public sector by the end of 2015. Whitehall simply must look after the interests of these people. Unfortunately, the traditional government view of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) simply doesn't work for independent professionals."

He says that a minister should be appointed within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and would be in charge of the smallest businesses in the UK, flexible work spaces that allow self employed professionals to work and also collaborate with others and promoting self employment as a viable career option to young people.

A third suggestion from the LFIG was that the idea of forming a Special Freelancer Limited Company should be explored. This would mean that certain requirements of IR35 could be changed, which the LFIG claims are 'onerous' and 'unachievable'.

The company would be a limited liability, sole trading vehicle, which would only have one shareholder at most and would not need to have concurrent clients or be able to send a substitute.

LFIG member Philip Ross says the idea came following discussions with a variety of freelance groups, including trade unions, IT workers, management consultants, accountants and tax specialists.

He also added that, for a long time, policies from all political parties have been focussed on the 'extreme' areas of the freelance economy, looking into such areas as tax avoidance and forced self employment.

Therefore, Mr Ross says that the report offers methods for helping the genuine freelancers in the middle who he says have been forgotten. Additionally, he says that the agenda offered is proactive rather than reactive and will help the self employment sector to move forward.

By Victoria McDonnell

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