In November, the Government announced the appointment of David Morris MP, as the UK’s Self Employed ‘Tsar’, or ambassador, who is going to, “bang the drum for freelances throughout the UK.”
The Office of National Statistics says that there are currently over 4.5 million independent workers, up 6.6% on last year, which represents 15% of the workforce across industry sectors in the UK.
At a recent event run by IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed), Morris said that he was in listening mode. As this is a new appointment he wants to find out what the key issues are before making any announcements. This is not a new area for him though - prior to being an MP, Morris was self-employed, running a hairdressing business with five saloons.
The main topics discussed at the event were:
The appointment of a Minister for Self-employment
While it’s a positive step that freelances now have an ambassador, the ultimate endorsement would be a dedicated Minister. The issues that have impact on freelances cut across the political board and a dedicated minister could make sure there is cohesion and focus on the specific issues faced.
Poor roll out of broadband in rural areas
The absence of good broadband services in some areas is a key issue. Freelances dependent on the Internet to communicate with clients are disadvantaged if they don’t have robust, reliable broadband Internet connections.
Calls to simplify tax
There was a general request to simplify the tax structure, e.g., by combining NI and Income Tax.
Support for late payments
This is a huge issue for many freelances and there is pressure to find schemes that work, in as much as they help recover late payments, without damaging the relationship with the client. An Australian model, where mediation is used successfully, was discussed in a video debate produced by IPSE.
Make Government vacant space available for using as hubs
Another area under discussion was for the Government to encourage local councils to open unused council properties to freelances as low cost office space. There is apparently a substantial portfolio of these properties, so this could offer significant support. This is happening already in some areas, e.g., a scheme in the London Borough of Merton allows access to new start-ups that have been going for less than 24 months.
Additional points raised
As the numbers of young people choosing the self employed route is substantially increasing, there was consensus that there should be more support at school to educate the next generation of freelances about the business side of self employment. There was also a call for childcare to be made tax deductible.
Future prospects for self-employment
The Government has also announced the possibility of introducing maternity pay for self-employed mothers. Matthew Hancock, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Energy said: “We’re looking at maternity pay and pensions. It’s not like being in a big company where someone can cover for you.”
All the major parties had discussions about self-employment at their party conferences this year, which were all well attended.
If you have any issues you want to be considered, or think should be raised, you can contact David Morris MP via his website.