With the Labour party conference in Brighton over, the PCG’s director of policy and public affairs, Simon McVicker, believes that the growth of professional contracting in the UK labour market is at last being acknowledged by senior mainstream politicians.
Mr McVicker said: “The 2013 Labour party conference has shown an unprecedented focus on flexible working, freelancing, and small business in general. From the event on Monday run by PCG and REC through to tonight’s successful event hosted by the Labour Small Business Forum and Ed Miliband’s speech, the changes in the way we work have taken centre stage in Brighton.”
He had earlier attended a fringe meeting hosted by Labour’s Finance and Industry Group and Small Business Taskforce, telling participants that between 2011 and 2013 the freelance workforce had grown by 10% to hit 1.73 million. Over the last five years, however, numbers had grown by 23% or more than 300,000.
Mr McVicker added that the PCG shared Labour’s desire to help vulnerable workers but warned that the huge increase in numbers reflected that many people were actively choosing freelancing rather than falling into precarious forms of transient employment.
He seemed to be suggesting that Labour’s rhetoric could give a misleading account of the nature of freelancing in the UK. There is clearly a major difference between a low-skilled worker hired as a temp and an IT professional contracting as an Umbrella Company Employee, and politicians would do well to bear these important differences in mind when considering policy.
The PCG’s party conference team is heading for Manchester next week to continue the debate about contracting and flexible working at the Conservative party conference.