Some of the dilemmas faced by the UK’s professional freelance contracting community have been outlined by the industry news outlet Shout99 in a recent newsletter.
The general thrust of the argument is summed up in an early sentence: “No one disputes the value of a highly-qualified, highly-flexible, low-maintenance workforce but despite more than a decade of campaigning for recognition, freelancers or high level contractors are not a recognised breed.”
Skilled professionals who have opted for freelance contracting instead are frequently “lumped in with protection for vulnerable workers”, the article continues. IR35 is mentioned as a well-intentioned regulation that was introduced in order to protect workers from being forced off their employer’s payroll on Friday only to return on Monday as a contractor with no employment rights; however, freelancers working through their own limited companies have found themselves caught by the legislation even though, as well-paid professionals, they cannot be considered vulnerable workers.
In addition, neither contractors nor their employers wished to be given employment rights under the EU-driven Agency Workers Regulations, which again were aimed at vulnerable, low-paid off-payroll workers. The recent controversy over the Swedish derogation model is perhaps another example where the predicament of vulnerable workers is considered but the need for professional contractors to work without unnecessary impediment is in danger of being overlooked.
The argument concludes: “In the meantime, freelancers are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Treated like vulnerable agency workers, who need protection, or ‘disguised employees’ who need taxing.”