The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) and the trade union ‘Community’ have collaborated on a new report aimed at improving conditions for the more vulnerable sections of the UK’s freelancing, contracting and self-employed workers.

The report, Under Pressure: Enabling the self-employed to break free, defined vulnerability among the self-employed on the basis of three indicators: low income, little or no autonomy at work and poor financial security. A self-employed worker is considered vulnerable by the report’s authors if they meet two of these indicators.

To address their needs and reduce their vulnerability, IPSE and Community have proposed six recommendations:

  1. Create pathways out of low pay with improved access to training.

Poor access to training and low-grade qualifications are strongly correlated with vulnerability among the self-employed. The government should, therefore, ensure that vocational education is made more attractive and viable to vulnerable flexible workers by making training for new skills tax deductible.

  1. Make Universal Credit work for self-employed people.

Many low-earning flexible workers would benefit from Universal Credit if the current one-year “minimum income floor” (MIF) period was extended to two years. Also as part of this, MIF should be calculated on a quarterly or yearly basis, so that the fluctuating incomes of freelancers can be properly assessed.

  1. Devise a parental benefits package for the self-employed.

Self-employed workers currently have no access to paid parental leave, maternity pay or paternity pay. To enable them to protect and grow their business, the government should provide a parental benefits package as a safety net. Umbrella Company Employees working via compliant Umbrella organisations do, however, have access to a full range of statutory employment benefits.

  1. Protect against unpaid work and late payments.

Late and non-payers should be held to account by powers invested in the Small Business Commissioner. The right to a written contract and clear payment terms would both be welcome and desirable steps.

  1. Devise a statutory definition of self-employment.

This would strongly deter the use of false self-employment by unscrupulous employers. Those currently forced into false self-employment schemes would immediately be granted full rights with such a definition and provide better control for the genuinely self-employed.

  1. Encourage ways for self-employed people to support one another.

This could be achieved by means of co-operatives, trade unions, mutual assistance groups or membership groups that permit the self-employed to collaborate on issues that matter to them.

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