Behind the broad brushstrokes of Labour leader Ed Miliband’s conference speech yesterday, the profile of freelancers and the UK’s growing professional contracting community was quietly but firmly being raised, with calls from inside and outside the party to place freelancers at the heart of its policies.
Just prior to the conference, freelancer campaigner and Labour supporter Philip Ross launched The Freelancing Agenda, a report he co-authored with Labour’s finance and industry group. The report called for stronger representation for freelancers, including the appointment of a new minister for freelancing and self-employment and setting the terms for a freelancers’ charter.
Labour’s shadow small business minister, Toby Perkins, acknowledged that the nature of work in the UK was changing, with rising numbers of freelancers and self-employed. Although highly-skilled Umbrella Company Employees are generally at the upper end of the freelancing and contracting spectrum, Mr Perkins said that many freelancers had been squeezed by the rising cost of living and had seen their average income cut by £2,000 since 2010. Labour, he said, pledged to create a more balanced economy with an agenda that took account of the changing patterns of work.
Labour’s recognition of the rise of freelancing was also welcomed by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE). Endorsing the proposal for a minister for freelancing and self-employment, IPSE’s director of policy, Simon McVicker, said: “It is encouraging that the Labour party is considering adopting the recommendations in the Labour finance and industry group’s report and IPSE will continue working with all major political parties to ensure they provide the self-employed with the support they need to flourish.”