Adam Waters, Policy and External Affairs Assistant at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), has dissected this week’s Queen’s Speech, widely touted as Prime Minister David Cameron’s last legislative agenda in the event of a Brexit vote in June, anatomising what it holds for contracting professionals, and, importantly, what it left out for this group of workers.
To begin with omissions, Waters notes that there was no mention of implementing the recommendations of the Deane Review, which included a proposal to bring maternity leave for independent contracting professionals and the self-employed more broadly into line with maternity leave for employees.
IPSE, he says, will be pressing for the introduction of these reforms as a matter of priority in the coming months.
However, the Digital Economy Bill included in the Speech could be much better news for Umbrella Company Employees and other contractors: it will grant a legal right to fast broadband for every household in the UK, while the Broadband Universal Service Obligation will guarantee a minimum speed of 10Mbps.
As Waters notes, poor broadband connections affect businesses in many parts of the UK. He writes: “So this announcement comes as welcome news to freelancers, whose business is often dependent on being able to stay connected at home or while travelling.”
The new Local Growth and Jobs Bill will permit local councils to retain 100 per cent of the business rate they collect – a potentially vast windfall amounting to £13bn for local Government. IPSE is calling for local councils to exempt work hubs from business rates, as they provide a supportive, collaborative working environment for contracting and freelancing professionals.
IPSE is critical of the limitations, though not the potential, of the new Lifetimes Savings Bill, which will introduce a Lifetime ISA (LISA). Waters concedes that this may go some way to helping contractors and the self-employed save for retirement, but it is only available to people under the age of 40 and has a maximum limit of £4,000 per annum.
Instead, IPSE is calling for the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) to develop a flexible pension option, allowing contracting professionals to withdraw their contributions for the previous two years without penalty. In the absence of this solution, the trade body is urging the Government to extend the LISA to permit larger annual payments and for it to become available to people closer to retirement.
In conclusion, Waters states: “With David Cameron mindful of his legacy, this Queen’s Speech saw some positives for freelancers on issues like broadband and savings, but there’s still some way to go on implementing recommendations from the Deane Review.”