A founding member of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has called for forward thinking about employment status following the General Election result.
Assessing the road ahead for contracting professionals, Philip Ross notes that instead of strengthening Mrs May’s hand, the result has weakened her and undermined her credibility. Yet, for the UK’s freelancing and contracting professionals, Mr Ross believes that it brings some opportunities as well as threats.
The last Government’s IR35 purge of contractors working in the public sector via their own personal service companies (PSCs) did not help it during the election, he says, as it alienated a substantial number of natural supporters. An increase in NICs is now much less likely, as such a move would be “politically foolish,” although Mr Ross concedes that this hasn’t prevented Governments from implementing dubious measures in the past.
One consequence of the new minority status of the Government is that the Taylor Review, due to report this summer, could well be debated more hotly. A reinvigorated Labour opposition in conjunction with the trade unions will have even greater influence during these debates.
For Mr Ross, IPSE’s role during this debate will be to ensure that skilled independent professionals who are freely contracting via PSCs or Umbrella Companies do not get caught by rules intended for low-skilled, precariously engaged gig workers. IPSE will, though, support the protections needed by this low-paid precariat. Mr Ross believes that Labour, which is now anxious to be seen as the party of business, may be an ally in this process.
The big issue in the new Parliament will, he states, be employment status (whether workers are self-employed or not). Alongside this will be the abilty of some freelancers to claim “worker style” rights. IPSE should support and assist freelancers who are entitled to specific rights.
Mr Ross also trains his attention on mercenary agents who can treat both contracting professionals and the precariat like mere commodities, as there is little comeback against their exploitative practices. These agencies, he notes, are typically not members of the REC or APSCo.
He writes: “As a starter, I believe IPSE should back a campaign to make all agency contracts transparent about their margins (commissions) with both clients and freelancers. If agents want to charge a 35%, then fair enough, but they need to be open about it.
If this is true for professional workers, then it is doubly so for precariat workers. There is a whole seam of positive legislation that can be pursued from late payments, insurance, co-operative working to guaranteeing fair contracts.”