Labour Conference 2017: Highlights for the self-employed

Friday 29 September 2017

The Labour Party Conference was held this week (ending September 29th) and people from all over the world of work were represented. Unsurprisingly, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) was present to provide a voice for the UK's many freelancers.

The conference was Labour's largest ever, featuring over 400 fringe events and around 11,000 attendees. One of these events was IPSE's 'The Changing World of Work', which the organisation hosted alongside Progress. The subject of the panel was: "How do we make sure modern employment practices benefit all involved?"

Among the topics discussed were the gig economy - specifically, the pros and cons of it - and the impact of increasing levels of automation on the world of work. However, the overall aim of IPSE was to answer the question of how to make self-employment work for everyone.

The gig economy was a major topic of discussion, especially considering the recent news about Uber being barred from London. However, Nita Clarke OBE - director of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising - cautioned against tarring every aspect of self-employment with the same brush, particularly given that the gig economy represents the evolving nature of this way of working.

Ms Clarke said that the reason people are joining the gig economy is because of the increased flexibility it offers, and warned policymakers against "lumping it all together in one and calling it a ‘bad thing’.”

Liam Byrne MP, the shadow minister for Digital, spoke very highly of the self-employed and how significant he predicts they will be during the next election. He went so far as to claim that the support of freelancers will determine who wins.

So what can Labour do to ensure this support? One thing Mr Byrne highlighted was how the current system of pensions, social security and housing are all based on standard full-time employment, therefore there is a need to update them for a world of increasing self-employment. He said Labour must “recast the welfare state in modern times”.

IPSE said the mood of the conference was "markedly optimistic" and its event was no different. The panel focused on finding solutions rather than simply pointing out issues with modern self-employment, one of which was training.

Chris Bryce, IPSE's chief executive, pointed out that "as it stands, if you are self-employed, training outside your profession isn’t tax-deductible as it is for employees". One of the things IPSE would like to see changed is this policy, in order to better enable the self-employed to learn and develop.


By Victoria McDonnell

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