Articles - 22nd January 2020

Bong or no Bong, Brexit won’t work for creative freelancers

Words by Emily & Jack

January 31 is Far From the Brexit Saga Cut-Off, Creative Freelancers Cautioned (Freelance UK)

Creative industry freelancers are being all but told that January 31st is far from the cut-off of the Brexit saga — if certainty over their work as a UK national or EU citizen is what they want.

But as Britain’s 11 pm EU exit a week Friday looms, there is a sense that the latter freelancers – not their British counterparts – are the creatives who are going to be better catered for.

Behind the scenes, freelancers’ supporters like The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), are working hard to level up the playing field.

But those negotiations need to be wrapped up by December 31st 2020 – the end of the UK’s transition period, or ‘implementation period’ as the government calls it.

During the 12-month period, the UK will remain a member of the single market and customs union and will still be under EU rules, although it will not contribute to making new ones.

Yet a UK creative industry body, the Creative Industries Federation, wants a longer transiting ‘status quo’ period – even though prime minister Boris Johnson has ruled it out. Given the PM’s vow, a legal firm is urging all businesses – large ones like freelancers’ clients and small ones like sole trader freelancers, to start reviewing their paperwork now, mindful of the December 31st cut-off.

In a statement to FreelanceUK yesterday, the advisory tabled some questions that enterprises with commercial agreements in place should be asking themselves, potentially even before next Friday’s cut-off too. By the end of that 12 months, the CIF says the “likelihood” is that the UK will have only managed to negotiate tariff-free access on ‘goods.’

So the federation regards the slow pace of negotiations to date as a sign of things to come – and a sign that ‘services,’ and the temporary mobility of workers, won’t be sorted by the end of the transition period.

UnderPinned have published an article previously on the upcoming Brexit problems for freelancers here, and will have a follow on piece later this month.  


UK recruiters warn of damage from freelance tax reforms (Financial Times) 

Leading recruitment companies have demanded a delay and rethink to forthcoming UK tax changes that they warn will damage the industry’s growth and increase tax avoidance.

Companies including Adecco, Harvey Nash, Hays, Reed and ManpowerGroup wrote to Chancellor Sajid Javid on Monday urging him to think twice on changes to the rules for off-payroll workers, known as IR35.

Freelancers who bill for their services via a limited company currently assess whether they are employed or self-employed for tax purposes. But from April, all large and medium-sized UK companies will be required to assess the employment status of contractors they use, to tackle what HM Revenue & Customs calls “disguised employment”, where workers and companies avoid paying income tax and national insurance.

HMRC estimates that only one in 10 people in the private sector who should be paying tax under the current IR35 rules are doing so correctly. The reforms are projected to bring in £3bn over the next four years.

The changes will mean hiring companies, and anyone involved in the labour supply chain such as recruitment agencies, will be liable for unpaid tax if HMRC finds a worker has been wrongly classified. Hirers will need to prove they have taken “reasonable care” assessing their contractors, or risk being liable for any shortfall in tax and national insurance.

Tax experts say recruitment agencies will be particularly affected by the IR35 reforms because they will not be able to alter assessment decisions about contractors made by hiring companies. But they will still be liable for any mistakes.


Freelancers almost 2x as likely to be depressed compared to office workers, survey finds (FE News)

A study by Viking surveyed 1,500 freelancers and office workers, to discover the effects freelancing has on mental health as well as looking at the positives and negatives of being a freelancer compares to an office-based employee. 

Results found that:

64% of freelancers say their work makes them feel lonely regularly

59% of freelancer say they suffer work-related anxiety

56% of freelancers suffer from depression, due to spending days working alone – compares to 30% of office-based workers

62% of freelancer said they felt stressed due to work – compared to 55% of office-based workers

Loneliness in the freelance world is a big issue, and the UnderPinned Community is here to help. Our Workshops and Freelance Fridays events are not only a great way to grow your network, they’re a chance to get out of the house, step away from work, and get to know and chat to other freelancers who share the same mindset.


IPSE and Nutmeg in new deal to help freelancer finances (Politics Home)

​IPSE and wealth management specialists Nutmeg have partnered together to help IPSE members with their finances.

Nutmeg’s mission is to make investment accessible to all. Their service includes advice, ISAs, general investment portfolios, Lifetime ISAs and personal pensions.

This new partnership will offer IPSE members 50 per cent of the first year of fees with Nutmeg, and an additional 25 per cent off financial planning and advice.

The Head of Commercial Development at IPSE, Suneeta Johal, said: “Financial planning can be a challenge for anyone, but for freelancers, fluctuating incomes make it even more difficult. Nutmeg’s invaluable advice and planning services could make a crucial difference to our members – and open up exciting new avenues by making investment more accessible.”    


The upstart unions taking on the gig economy and outsourcing (Financial Times)

The upstart unions are a reflection of several powerful trends in modern economies such as the UK’s. As insecure and gig economy work becomes more common, especially among migrant and young workers, newer groups are developing to meet demand from workplaces with few protections — and in the process, they are leaving established unions struggling to protect their turf. 

The energy of these small, confrontational labour associations follows decades of decline in workplace organising and mainstream unions — even if the bigger unions have enjoyed greater influence in the Labour party in recent years. In 2018, 23.4 percent of employees in the UK were union members, half the 1979 peak. 

While the upstart unions have scored notable successes, they face challenges both from outsourcing groups and gig-economy companies such as Uber and Deliveroo, which have sought to disrupt organisation by workers and deny them the status of employees; and from mainstream unions suspicious of their tactics. Both factors could hamper their ability to grow.

The different methods have generated tensions. At University College London, IWGB represents several hundred cleaners and security guards, but employers refuse to negotiate with them, opting only to talk with its officially recognised union, Unison. After IWGB declared strike action last October, demanding an end to disparities in benefits like pensions and sick pay between in-house and outsourced staff, UCL announced it would meet requests within two years. But while IWGB declared a partial victory, Unison and UCL announced the changes were a result of negotiations between themselves, making no mention of the smaller union that had put pressure on its employers. 

When IWGB cleaners and security guards picketed UCL on a freezing cold morning last November — pushing for improvements to be introduced sooner than the two-year timetable proposed by the university — they said the new union had already transformed their working life. Issues that had been stuck with middle management went straight to the top, and workers had grown in confidence. 

When St Mary’s went on strike last year, it did so as part of a co-ordinated action with low-paid staff at the Ministry of Justice, ITV and Channel 4, the Royal Parks and Greenwich University. In 2017, when IWGB took Uber to court over workers’ rights, it called a “precarious workers strike back”, action, bringing private-hire drivers, couriers, security officers and other low-paid workers out in solidarity. 

These members are being joined by workers in different sectors. UVW has recently launched branches for workers in the architectural and legal sectors as well as the sex industry. IWGB is now organising foster carers, and has a branch for producers of video games. 

With no shortage of potential members in low-paid, unstable work, the membership of both unions has the potential to grow significantly, bringing a bigger range of workplace problems and long-term employer relationships that will shape their development.


Gig economy businesses must rethink identification strategy amid another Uber ban (Insurance Times)

Uber has been banned in Birmingham due to the taxi-hire firm’s recent dispute with its regulator – Transport for London (TfL).

Uber’s Birmingham licence will not be renewed at the end of January.

It follows Uber having its London licence revoked last year after it was revealed that 14,000 drivers in the capital were not insured or unlicenced, therefore potentially compromising passenger safety.

Authentication platform Veridium’s chief executive, James Stickland has warned that gig economy businesses must rethink their identity verification strategies to ensure public safety as well as the legitimacy of their business model.

This ban could further impact the insurance industry, especially those that insure Uber drivers such as Zego, INSHUR and Axa Group. 

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