In a joint letter from IPSE, the Creative Industries Federation, Prospect and the Federation of Small Businesses, it has been argued that freelancers have made many UK industries “highly innovative, fast-growing and world-leading”. However, it warns that because of gaps in support during the pandemic, “we’re at real risk of losing those people and skills forever”.
The letter urges the Chancellor to create a Freelance Commissioner to “build more resilience into this workforce and ensure no worker falls through the gaps”.
But is the letter going to be put in the circular file or seriously considered? And how would the Commissioner be nominated or appointed and under whose agenda? Or end up being a Conservative Party Crony or Labour Party Puppet? Could we really have someone with clout fighting for the empowerment, advancement and rights of the self-employed and freelancers (solopreneurs) within public policy?
“Our vital freelance sector is in a state of crisis. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen the biggest drop in self-employed numbers on record,” said Derek Cribb, CEO of IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed).
“Incomes have been hit hard and too many freelancers have fallen through the gaps in government support, pushing some into PAYE jobs but many more into debt and the benefits system,” said Cribb.
“In the short-term, we continue to urge the Chancellor to fix the gaps in support and look again at the many policy proposals to help limited company directors, the newly self-employed and other forgotten groups. For the long-term, however, we are asking for a dedicated Freelance Commissioner – to look at freelancer support, to build the resilience of the sector and to champion the UK’s crucial freelance community.”
The letter suggests the Future Workforce Commission could operate like existing industry Councils: co-chaired by government ministers and convening freelance representatives across all UK nations, regions and industries.
Here are some of the driving factors behind why the UK needs a Freelance Commissioner:
- The number of UK self-employed has fallen from 5.1 million at the end of 2019 to 4.56 million, wiping out the growth of the last 5 years.
- 1.5 million self-employed people – including the newly self-employed, those working through limited companies and others – are not eligible for SEISS.
- IPSE research has shown that 1.05 million self-employed people (23% of the sector) have been pushed into debt by the pandemic and 1.23 million (27%) have burned through their savings.
- The earnings of highly skilled freelancers (who make up almost half the sector) are at the second-lowest on record (at their lowest, at the peak of the pandemic, they were 30% down on the previous year).
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