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Business groups demand ‘positive’ self-employment definition

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The government is being urged to introduce a “positive” self-employment definition that leads to fair taxation and a “better understanding” of independent working.

A taskforce made up of 11 business groups and think-tanks that represent small businesses and the self-employed is calling for clarity on the complex issue of employment status.

The demand for a workable self-employment definition is one of 10 points set out in a policy manifesto published yesterday by the Small Business Taskforce.

Ministers and civil servants will be told in a series of meetings that the recommendations must be acted on “in order for the UK to remain one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business.”

Why a clear self-employment definition is needed

Simon McVicker, director of policy and external affairs at freelancer body and taskforce member IPSE, said:

The rise of the self-employed – up nearly 50 per cent since 2001 – represents a permanent and major structural shift in the economy.

The lack of clarity about who is and who isn’t self-employed is creating confusion and stifling confidence in this vital sector. It is totally unacceptable that policymakers are relying on the courts to define self-employment.

He added:

We want a positive definition of self-employment so the genuinely self-employed have certainty and peace of mind, and so unscrupulous companies cannot exploit confusion and push people into false self-employment.

This manifesto provides a roadmap for the government to fully embrace the benefits the self-employed bring to the economy, particularly in ensuring the UK retains its most important competitive advantage – its flexibility – at this uncertain time.

Manifesto for the self-employed

Other demands in the manifesto include:

  • Accurate measurement of the economic and social contribution made by the self-employed and small firms.
  • Shared parental leave rights and consideration of extending free childcare hours for self-employed parents.
  • Steps to create greater awareness in schools of entrepreneurship, self-employment and business ownership.

Taskforce leader Emma Jones, founder of small business support group Enterprise Nation, said:

Small businesses and the self-employed have been patient, but it’s time to raise these legitimate concerns in our manifesto in order to support enterprising individuals.

Government ‘exploring options’

The government announced in February that it would be launching a detailed consultation examining options, including new legislation, to clarify employment status.

The stated aim is to “make it easier for both workers and businesses to understand whether someone is an employee, worker or self-employed – determining which rights and tax obligations apply to them.”

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