Contractors should receive more gov support, says review

Monday 15 February 2016

Self-employed people ought to have similar rights to company employees, a new review has found.

Conducted by entrepreneur Julie Deane on behalf of the government, the independent self-employment review has recommended the government take steps to improve the support available to contractors and freelancers. This would place them on a more equal footing with employees when it comes to things like starting a family and having suitable available workspaces.

The report particularly stressed that not only is self-employment at an all-time high, with 4.6 million people in the UK working in this way (some 15 per cent of the workforce), but that it is likely this number will continue to grow. Crucially, Ms Deane pointed out that not only are the self-employed becoming more numerous, but their economic contribution is vital, having been a particular driver of growth in recent years.

In the report, she suggested it is paramount that more is done to ensure the likes of contractors and freelancers are not disadvantaged by choosing to be self-employed. 

"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," the report stated.

Among the recommendations made were that advice and support for such individuals is made more accessible. Ms Deane suggested the creation of a central portal that would provide contractors and freelancers with impartial support.

However, she also highlighted that currently the definition of what a self-employed individual is remains unclear - and that this needs to 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," the report stated.

Among the areas pinpointed for improvement is maternity and paternity allowance. The report suggested that self-employed individuals ought to have similar access to maternity pay to employees to make government support "consistent whether the beneficiary is employed or self-employed".

For example, it suggested increasing maternity allowance paid to contractors and freelancers for the first six weeks, which would bring it in line with the allowance granted to company employees.

The report also proposed a number of other ways the government could provide support while making use of currently underused resources. For example, it put forward the idea of creating shared work spaces in local libraries, which are often underused, to make more appropriate work spaces available and enhance the utility of certain public spaces.

By Victoria McDonnell

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