The TUC’s response to the latest employment figures, which show a huge increase in self-employment since mid-2010, has triggered a row with the professional contracting and freelancing trade association PCG.

Self-employment is responsible for 44% of the rise in employment since the coalition came to power. The TUC argues that this is predominantly due to ‘vulnerable’ workers being forced into self-employment in the absence of more stable employment opportunities.

According to the TUC, the reality is far from the government’s claim that the self-employed are predominantly entrepreneurial: the new roles, it argues, are more insecure than good-quality employment positions, are often badly paid and offer none of the benefits, such as annual leave and sick pay.

There was no mention, however, of the skilled independent professionals (iPros) who have chosen to work, for example, as Umbrella Company Employees. The number of iPros has been steadily rising, which is a fact not lost on the PCG. The trade association’s CEO, Chris Bryce, accused the TUC of “misguided and unhelpful” thinking.

Citing PCG research showing that iPros ‒ unlike the vast majority of salaried workers ‒ have seen their pay rates increase since 2011 and that the vast majority are happy to freelance, Mr Bryce criticised the TUC for tarring all self-employed freelancers with the same ‘vulnerable’ brush.

Vulnerable workers, Mr Bryce agreed, need proper protection, but he added that self-employment “is a structural change in the way we approach the concept of work, not a cyclical occurrence based on an unhealthy jobs market, as the TUC claim.”

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