Self-employed or not?

Being self-employed was once seen as a sign of pursuing that dream job. However, the arrival of the so-called “gig economy” (in which people are paid by the job, rather than a salary or by time spent) has meant that many of those people who are now classified as self-employed are not living the dream, particularly since they do not enjoy many of the basic rights of normal employees.

For those employed in the gig economy, it is thought that they are not necessarily classed as self-employed through choice. They will often be less well-educated, younger and/or immigrants. For this group, self-employment usually offers few advantages and has been described by Frank Field MP, chairman of the House of Commons Work and Pensions Select Committee, as “a life of low pay, chronic insecurity and exploitation, in which all of the risks in the employment relationship are unloaded on to them by the company with whom they are working and the gains go almost exclusively to the company”.

A Commons review is expected to propose significant changes to working practices in the UK and to affect the balance of power between hiring companies and their workforces. Among the proposals being considered are that:

• the hiring company takes responsibility to prove that a worker is genuinely self-employed
• it is a mandatory requirement for temporary workers to receive written terms and conditions within a week of starting jobs

Most importantly, employers must accept that, if they want their workforce to be truly self-employed, they must allow the flexibility that goes with self-employment. In other words, they cannot control workers if they do not want also to have the responsibilities that go with that control.

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