What must Government do for freelancers and contractors?

Words, hubbul

The recent General Election result will have done little to convince UK freelancers and contractors that the current Government is committed to supporting their growing needs.

Following a hung Parliament, Theresa May and The Conservative Party are looking to strike a deal with The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to form a majority government. However, with recent research highlighting that a staggering 97% of freelancers and contractors feel unsupported by the current Government, it’s safe to say that any incoming Party – or in this case Parties – will have their work cut out to win back the support of the UK’s independent workforce.

And this concerning lack of faith in the Government is easily explained, as Seb Maley, CEO of contractor tax adviser and the company behind the research, Qdos Contractor commented.

“Recent controversial changes to the taxation system has understandably left independent workers feeling unfairly targeted and in many respects vulnerable. That a huge proportion of freelancers and contractors do not believe the current Government has their best interests at heart is of course worrying news however.”

From slashing tax-free dividend allowance by 60%, introducing unpopular public sector IR35 changes, rumours around private sector IR35 reform, and who could forget – the increase and subsequent reversal of national insurance contribution (NIC)  - there has been little evidence recently that The Conservative Party is indeed, the most suitable Party for the UK’s independent workforce.

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In the coming months, we can ultimately expect some uncertainty, as any new Government settles in, negotiating Britain’s exit from The EU in a new look Government. And leading voices in the sector are urging the powers that be to prioritise the needs of the UK’s growing independent workforce.

“The Government needs to bring certainty and clarity to our negotiation position on Brexit as soon as possible. The current uncertainty can only be damaging to our hopes of negotiating the strongest possible exit deal from the EU,” explained IPSE’s Director of Policy, Simon McVicker.

“The self-employed must be central on the government’s agenda. The Government must ensure a flexible economy is crucial in their thinking for the post-Brexit world. We urge the politicians to put the interest of the UK first and to continue to create the environment for the self-employed to thrive in.”

Interestingly, and prior to the General Election, despite stating their unhappiness with The Conservative Party, the largest percentage (42%) of freelancers surveyed announced that they planned to vote for them. Whether they actually did remains to be seen, but given the likelihood of another Conservative Government, the independent workforce will be expecting more support this time around.

There are no shortage of suggestions when it comes to the type of help and support the independent workforce would benefit from either.  Seb Maley of Qdos Contractor has called for any incoming Government to first focus on tax simplification.

“The vast majority of independent workers are not tax dodgers and do not choose to work this way to unfairly exploit the system. In times of uncertainty, the UK’s independent workforce has shown its value to the economy, contributing £119bn last year. Why target them, punish them and tarnish their hard-earned reputation?

“It’s time tax worked for everyone. And the new Government will have a fresh opportunity to work with freelancers and contractors to build a fairer, smarter and simplified tax system - and one which the independent workforce, the economy and Government will each benefit from.”

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In a similar vein, IPSE has outlined a number of measures the new Government must take to show their commitment to the UK’s 4.8million and growing self-employed population.

In The IPSE Manifesto: a contract with the self-employed, the UK’s leading body for the self-employed highlight a number of key areas. These include;

  • Delivering a Brexit that works, and ensures the free movement of skilled professionals across Europe
  • Bespoke building a fairer, more efficient tax system, and one more suited for freelancers
  • Securing the futures of freelancers, including incentivising pensions
  • Preparing the next generation of self-employed, and integrating self-employment and enterprise onto the curriculum

With a record 4.8million self-employed people in the UK, 2million of whom are freelancers and contractors, this fast-growing sector of the workforce is becoming more important both economically, and politically speaking. And one thing remains clear; any incoming Parties have the opportunity to rebuild burnt bridges with the UK’s 2million freelancers and contractors. Whether they will however, remains to be seen.

What would you like the incoming Government to tackle first? Join the conversation…

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