Many highly skilled professionals contracting as Umbrella Company Employees could be forgiven for thinking that, in official circles at least, the concept of genuine flexible working has not really caught on; however, yesterday’s speech to the CBI by business secretary Dr Vince Cable may signal that government thinking is beginning to change in favour of the professional freelancer.
The UK has managed to avert the worst extremes of the recession, not least because of the willingness of employers and employees alike to consider new, flexible ways of working beyond the traditional Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five model.
To his credit, Dr Cable fulsomely acknowledged this in his speech, declaring that the UK’s growing army of flexible workers deserve “the greatest credit” for contributing to the kick-starting of the British economy.
PCG chairman Julie Stewart welcomed his remarks, stressing the importance of the government finally publicly acknowledging the UK’s ‘flexible workers’ and the contributions they make; however, she also advised a more discerning use of the term. ‘Flexible workers’ covers a broad range of the country’s current labour market, she said, and each “should be recognised individually.”
Elaborating, Ms Stewart continued: “It’s great that the government is finally recognising how important flexibility is to economic growth. The UK workforce has undoubtedly had to adapt over the last few years and the rise in self-employment is testament to its ability to do that. It is important, however, to acknowledge the contribution of independent professionals specifically, rather than using a broad and generic term that can be applied to a series of other non-traditional workers.”
Ms Stewart pointed out that the UK’s freelancing community contributes £88 billion to the economy every year.