The number of self-employed workers has fallen for the seventh successive month according to the latest figures published on Wednesday by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The flexible workforce shrunk by 26,000 during the three months to August 2015 compared to the same quarter last year, despite the fact that the overall UK employment rate reached its highest levels since records began back in 1971.

The latest fall in the number of contractors and freelancers, including those who work as Umbrella Employees, has prompted IPSE to urge to the government to get behind the 4.5 million workers across the country who work for themselves.

IPSE chief executive Chris Bryce said: “Despite the improvement in the labour market more generally, we are concerned that the number of self-employed people in the UK has fallen for the seventh consecutive month compared to last year.”

He added, however, that the current downward trend is unlikely to continue in the long term, as there has been a modest rise in the number of flexible workers during the last three months compared to earlier in the year.

Mr Bryce concluded: “We hope the government reconsiders announcements made in the summer budget, including proposed changes to travel and subsistence tax relief for freelancers, which could drive thousands out of business.”

The latest figures by ONS show that the unemployment rate has now dipped to its lowest level since before the recession in spring 2008, while the number of people in work soared to more than 31 million between June and August 2015.

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