Representatives of the UK’s professional contracting community have been responding to the Government-commissioned Taylor Review into modern working practices, whose findings were published yesterday.
Crawford Temple, CEO of Umbrella Company trade association PRISM, faulted the Review for its broad, high-level recommendations, which he believes are not sufficiently specific to address the fraught tensions over employment status. In particular, he noted that the Review sidestepped the issue of tax, which remains a critical issue in the debate over tax versus rights.
So far, he said, the Social Market Foundation has published the only study (sponsored by PRISM) to address the knotty issue of tax by proposing a “Hirers’ NI” in circumstances where workers are, as designated in the Taylor report, “dependent contractors.”
He called for the Government to move quickly and boldly to abolish the threshold on Employers’ NI and lower the headline rate – a simple step that would dispense with the large financial motivation for employers to coerce zero- or limited-hours contracts on workers.
Julia Kermode, CEO of Umbrella Company trade body the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), welcomed Mr Taylor’s recognition of the importance of Umbrella Companies as important components of the supply chain, signalling that he had listened to the FCSA’s evidence.
She added: “Compliant Umbrella firms are wholly transparent in all of their dealings in the supply chain, and particularly how they calculate pay for their employees, plus they provide a clear contract of employment with all 84 statutory rights and benefits which accompanies employment. It is very clear that the Review panel appreciates the important contribution of Umbrella firms within the supply chain, collecting approximately £3bn for the Exchequer annually.”
Ms Kermode applauded the Review’s proposal for the Government to explore how the Apprentice Levy “could be made to work better for those working atypically, including through agencies.” Umbrella Companies, she added, would welcome such a move, as the FCSA has repeatedly conveyed its concerns to the Government that intermediaries should be exempt from the Levy due to the artificially high nature of their payrolls.
While the professional contracting community generally welcomed the introduction of “dependent contractor” status for the more precariously engaged gig economy workers, most were resolute in highlighting the fundamental difference between these lower-skilled workers and the vast majority of highly skilled independent professionals who actively choose the flexibility of working on a contract-by-contract basis.
Those expressing this sentiment and calling for greater formal recognition for this group included Andy Vessey and Seb Maley of Qdos Contractor (Head of Tax and CEO respectively), Dave Chaplin (CEO and founder of ContractorCalculator), Chris Bryce (CEO of IPSE) and Samantha Hurley (Director of Operations at APSCo).