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Think Self-Employed: Supporting the 4.8 million to climb higher

Think Self Employed

The UK has seen huge changes to the world of work in the last decade, one of the biggest shifts has been the rise in the number of people who have decided to strike out on their own and move into self-employment. With the 4.8 million self-employed representing 15% of the workforce, and contributing over £270 billion to the UK economy, it is a group that is here to stay.

Self-employment has also played a valuable role in opening up employment to those who otherwise might not be in work. More older people, younger people, women, service leavers and others are increasingly seeing the benefits of striking out on their own, and being their own boss.

This growth has had huge benefits for many and for the wider economy. Helping to drive the record levels of employment and local economic growth, and reducing economic inactivity among those who struggle in traditional, full-time employment. There is clear evidence that the vast majority of the self-employed are happier than they would be as an employee and that most start up in business out of choice, often in search of more flexibility and meaning at work.

Despite the benefits of self-employment those that choose to ‘go it alone’ face a number of challenges which have long been ignored by successive governments. If the self-employed fall ill they are dependent on their own savings (or lack of) while sick. When they start a family, self-employed mothers receive a lower level of parental support, fathers and those adopting a child receive no parental support. Their fluctuating incomes and desperate need to save for a ‘rainy day’ means they often struggle to save for retirement.

They face significant difficulties accessing mortgages and insurance products. The Universal Credit
(UC) and the benefits systems designed with employees in mind often lead the self-employed to ‘round pegs and square holes’.

The self-employed enjoy fewer rights and, fundamentally, by setting up in business they face much higher risks than those in employment do. For far too long they been an after-thought in policymaking from Government and all political parties.

The time has now come for the Government and all political parties to start thinking about the self-employed and do more to support the 4.8 million to climb higher.