The Government’s changes to off-payroll working rules with ‘IR35’ is leaving freelancers feeling very concerned.
IPSE’s Deputy Director of Policy Andy Chamberlain said:
“The government’s new guidance claims that legitimately self-employed people ‘will feel little impact’. Tell this to the thousands of contractors working for Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Tesco Bank who have already been told they must move into umbrella companies, go PAYE or cease contracting for these organisations altogether. There will likely be more such damaging decisions as April approaches.”
Chamberlain says that it is “disappointing” that HMRC is still using the CEST tool, which he feels is the result of “so many IR35 woes” as even HMRC admits that “in 15 per cent of cases it cannot even provide a determination”. He says that the self-employed “face disastrous changes to their tax system, based on a fundamentally flawed tool” and urges the government to “recall and rethink this ill-conceived plan before it is too late.”
After former BBC presenter Christa Ackroyd lost her appeal against HMRC, a decision was made last Friday that found her liable for nearly 420,000 in outstanding tax, as a result of the IR35 legislation.
In his ruling, Judge Jonathan Cannan said that: “In our view the most significant factors in the present case include the fact that the BBC could control what work Ms Ackroyd did pursuant to the hypothetical contract. It was a seven-year contract for what was effectively a full-time job.
“Standing back and making an overall qualitative assessment of the circumstances we consider that Ms Ackroyd was an employee under the hypothetical contract.”
Vice President of the European Commission Margrethe Vestager said that EU competition regulations must not stop gig workers coming together to fight for better rights, in a reference to rules that effectively stop freelance workers colluding to fix prices.
“Platform workers should be able to team up, to defend their rights,” said the Danish politician. “The fact that their employers label those workers as ‘self-employed’ doesn’t make those collective agreements into cartels, when that label is just a way to disguise that they are really employees.
“So we may need to make clear that nothing in the competition rules stops those platform workers from forming a union.”
Around one in 10 working-age adults in the UK – around five million people – work on gig economy platforms, for example Deliveroo or Uber, double the number who did so in 2016 and unions have warned that workers’ rights have not kept up.
Speaking at an event on sustainability and competition policy in Brussels, Vestager said it was important that companies understand the opportunities they had to work together without breaking the rules.
Vestager, whose EU antitrust role has seen her play a leading role in the imposition of hefty fines for tech giants like Google, Apple and Microsoft, said that many businesses were “stepping up, and taking responsibility for providing decent conditions for the workers who make their products – even if they don’t directly employ those people.”
She added: “Our review of the rules and guidelines on horizontal co-operation could be another opportunity to explain how companies can put together sustainability agreements without harming competition.”
In the UK, the insecure nature of gig economy work has led to the emergence of new unions, such as the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). It has led a number of successful campaigns on the rights of self-employed workers such as Uber drivers and has lobbied for collective bargaining powers for outsourced workers.
The Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, which will merge into one organisation next year, have published a 10-point plan for the creative industries in anticipation of an election.
Designed to tackle the sector’s inequalities and boost its future growth, the manifesto has been delivered to all political parties “to ensure that the creative industries play a role in forthcoming election campaigns”.
Alan Bishop, chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation, said it would be “tremendously short-sighted” of political parties not to recognise the importance of the sector, adding: “To fail to act for the creative sector is to fail to act in the interest of the UK as a whole.”
The manifesto includes points on growth, developing a 21st-century workforce and maximising global competitiveness, and looks particularly at ending regional disparity.
Creative England’s funder and chief executive, Caroline Norbury, described the current situation as “patchy and unequal”.
As a result the manifesto calls for a ‘cultural and creative industries investment bank’, providing £1 billion to support creative enterprises in regions which currently lack support.
It would be regionally focused and offerings could include commercial investment as well as repayable grants.
The manifesto’s demands also include:
- Specialist business support for creative businesses and freelancers in the early stages of their careers
- Cutting business rates for cultural venues
- A significant real-terms increase in public arts funding, at both national and local level
- Ensuring European Union funding is maintained or matched by UK government
- Establishing a ‘future workforce commission’ to bring together government, education producers and industries
- Putting creative education at the heart of the school curriculum and ensuring resources are available for extra-curricular learning
- Extending the Creative Careers Programme
- Introducing dedicated visas for international freelancers and for touring
- Enforcing a robust Intellectual Property regime
- Investment to support innovation in areas such as health, well-being, climate change and tech
In this article, UnderPinned’s CEO and Co-Founder Albert de Symons Azis-Clauson explains what the growing gig economy and UK economy’s heavy reliance on freelancers means for the future of freelance, the challenges the self-employed face and what they can do about it.
Read more about what Albert has to say!
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