Articles - 15th May 2019

Freelance surge and women are leading the way

Words by Emily Murray

There’s been a freelance surge, IPSE statistics reveal

IPSE brings welcome statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), revealing that the self-employed sector is surging.

The data shows the number of self-employed in the UK has risen by 175,000 since this time last year. 60,000 highly skilled technical workers and 50,000 construction workers are included in this figure.

The Economic Policy Advisor at IPSE, Ryan Barnett, commented on the growing gig workforce saying:

“These statistics show just how attractive the opportunities, freedom and flexibility of freelancing are. Despite political turbulence, freelancers are creating businesses and driving innovation with their dynamism and get-up-and-go spirit.

“The government must make sure the self-employed can fire on all cylinders by giving them real support. It should give them not only fair parental rights and pensions but also a tax system that is fit for the digital era. Only then will we unlock the true value of the 4.8 million people who now add £275bn to the economy.”

Senior level females driving the freelance revolution forward

There has been a 334,000 (63%) increase in highly-skilled females in the freelance industry and it is the female freelancers that led the way who are to thank for the UK’s thriving gig-economy.

Having lead the UK’s freelance revolution over the last 10 years, freelance women are to thank for the increase – a group larger than the population of Nottingham, according to new research by IPSE. This now takes the number of freelance women at a senior-level in the UK to 863,000.

Senior freelance business analyst and Chair of IPSE Caroline Morgan, said on the matter:

“This is brilliant news for the UK economy, with highly skilled women adding their knowledge and experience to a wide range of organisations and industries. Women are recognising that freelancing is a great career choice. The senior women I speak to chose to be their own boss for a wide range of reasons, from variety in their career to balancing family life. As a freelancer I have been able to find that balance outside the confines of a corporate structure.

“The country increasingly relies on highly skilled freelancers to innovate and share knowledge across a wide range of industries as our labour force modernises to compete around the world.

“More than ever, this shows that freelancing is a feminist issue, and that we urgently need the government to modernise its tax and employment systems to support it.”

Jobs wins for the girls

Within the last three months, the number of women in employment rose by a huge 114,000, whilst the number of men in employment fell by 15,000.

Reports show that the employment rate among working-age women, (women aged between 16 and 64), is at 71.8% and is the highest it’s ever been. Interestingly, the female unemployment rate is 3.7%, and lower than the male rate, which currently stands at 3.9%.

Although the gender pay gap is still exploiting female workers, at least the gender employment gap has shrunk.

Freelancers might be losing £7,500 per annum

The Telegraph exposed that self-employed people could be £7,500 a year worse off after the Government’s tax crackdown.

As it stands, contractors pay less in tax than employees, as they do not receive workers benefits like sick leave or holiday pay. However, because of the crackdown on “disguised employment” under the IR35 tax reform it seems that the self-employed will be spending £7,500 more.

An unsettlingly different view on who fits inside IR35 between The Met Office, who ruled

that 98% of its freelancers were inside the tax laws, and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), which procures goods for Government departments, who ruled 87% of its contractors should actually have been treated as employed staff, and taxed as such, shows how tricky the IR35 tax reform is on clarifying what individuals should and shouldn’t be taxed as employed.

So who’s to blame for this? Dave Chaplin, of Contractor Calculator, said the fault was done to HMRC’S tool to determine contractor status, CEST, used by both the Met Office and the CCS. As Telegraph Money has previously reported, the CEST tool is wrong in almost half of its cases.

Court Victory makes HMRC harder on self-employed contractors  

After the Court of Appeal ruled against Costelloe Business Services, who provided a range of services to contractors in healthcare, including managing payroll, HMRC has started sending out letters to contractors suspected of using similar companies.

Rebecca Seeley Harris, from PKF Francis Clark accountants, said: “What I find incredibly unfair is that a contractor can join a scheme 10 years ago which was completely legitimate and suddenly we go through court and it’s an MSC. It causes years of worry and anxiety wondering whether you have done the right thing.”

It’s estimated that 50,000 contractors are currently facing tax bills, potentially six figures in some cases, because of the loan charge, which presses taxes on to those who’ve used tax avoidance schemes in the past 20 years.

Amazon is offering thousands if you quit your job

Amazon is encouraging UK employees to quit their jobs and set up delivery firms. The retail giant is offering individuals thousands of pounds, in order to tackle the problem of keeping up with increased demand.

A grant equivalent to three months salary, roughly £5,000 for a full-time worker earning Amazon’s £9.50 per hour wage outside of London, is being offered to those who turn self-employed and run their own independent delivery business.

Amazon expects dozens of UK employees to become delivery drivers and say they are therefore helping provide more jobs across the UK.

Doug Gurr, Amazon’s UK country leader, said: “We are excited to launch an initiative to help make the dreams of employees who have always wanted to run their own business come true. Customer demand is higher than ever and we have a need to build more delivery capacity.”

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