Self-employed workers in the UK feel like they are "second-class citizens" in certain areas of the economy, according to the boss and founder of the Cambridge Satchel Company. Julie Deane, who was tasked by David Cameron in 2015 to produce an independent review into the area, spoke to IBTimes UK about her investigation's findings.
The entrepreneur has made a number of recommendations to the Conservative government on what additional support can be provided to the increasing number of self-employed people, who now make up around 14.8% or 4.8 million of the UK's 31 million strong workforce.
Deane, who has seen her leather goods firm grow into a multi-million pound business, has urged the prime minister to try and make it more of a level-playing field for self-employed people. "One very, very clear message that was coming through was that in certain areas they feel almost like second-class citizens," the businesswoman said.
"They feel that the sector is treated as if it is a sector that doesn't contribute as much or maybe they should be growing and scaling, whereas a lot of them are very happy being sole-traders or one person companies."
In particular, Deane wants to see more flexible financial instruments for self-employed people as the workers may find it harder to secure mortgages, insurance and pension coverage than employees.
The Cambridge Satchel Company creator has also urged ministers to consider enhancing the level of Maternity Allowance provided to the self-employed in the first six weeks – bringing Maternity Allowance in line with Statutory Maternity Pay.
"Let's have equality because the lines between employment and self-employment aren't as clear as they used to be," Deane added. But as for taxation - a topic hitting headlines after Google's controversial tax settlement - the issue was not within the scope of the review.
However, Deane told IBTimes UK that the topic was raised often by the self-employed people she spoke to and she has passed a separate document with their concerns to HM Revenue and Customs. Cameron welcomed Deane's review and promised to "carefully consider" her recommendations.
"Up and down the country there are millions of hard-working self-employed people and I want to make sure they get all the support and security they need to achieve their ambitions," the prime minister said.
"We're already helping with tax allowances, start-up support and with our ongoing commitment to cutting red tape, and given Julie Deane's experience of starting her own successful business, she was the ideal person to shine more light on the needs of self-employed people.
"I'd like to thank Julie for her hard work in delivering this review, and her wide-ranging recommendations will be carefully considered."
Mike Cherry, policy director for the Federation of Small Businesses, also welcomed the investigation and urged the government to "take on board" Deane's proposals.
"Particularly important are the recommendations to bring Maternity Allowance into line with Statutory Maternity pay and those relating to access to more flexible finance solutions. For too long the self-employed have been frozen out of getting fair access to mortgages, insurance products and pensions," he added.
Julie Deane's recommendations
- A need for education to better prepare our young people for the role which self-employment might play in their future
- Improving the central portal (Gov.uk)so that the advice and support available for the self-employed is as accessible as possible
- Creating more flexible financial solutions, from mortgages and insurance to pensions to cater for the needs of the self-employed
- Reviewing the support provided by government to those starting or extending a family to ensure consistency for the employed and self-employed
- Clarity on the description of 'self-employed' to take into account the wide variety of individuals and sectors that it applies to with a single definition for tax and employment law
- Overly complicated legislation and administration is costly for the government and burdensome to the growth of our businesses and needs addressing in a clear and common-sensical manner
- Reviewing the current Impact Assessment carried out to calculate the effect new policies will have on different sectors to include self-employment as one of these sectors
- A need for government to look at taxation in more detail. Although outside the remit of this review, taxation was repeatedly raised by all of those interviewed as issue that could benefit from improved simplicity and better advice
- Increasing awareness, availability and locations of shared work spaces
- Ensuring government, trade and professional understand and keep abreast of the ways in which the self-employed landscape continues to change as a result of technology and modern ways of working