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This law could give the self-employed the same rights as employees

2-minute read

Josh Hall

26 February 2018

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Self-employed workers, including those in the gig economy, should have the same rights as those with employment contracts.

This is according to Labour MP Tracy Brabin, who is introducing a bill to Parliament today that would extend shared parental leave to the self-employed.

“It really feels like the days of introducing employment rights which only apply to those on secure contracts are stuck in the past and really should come to an end,” Ms Brabin said prior to introducing the bill.

Ms Brabin, who was previously a self-employed actress, is proposing that the self-employed should be allowed to split the 52 weeks of parental leave between two parents, in addition to the 39 weeks of statutory parental pay.

This arrangement has been available to employees since 2015, but the legislation specifically excludes the self-employed.

The bill has cross-party support, including from Conservatives Ed Vaizey and Maria Miller, and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson. Ms Brabin says the policy would be cost-neutral.

A survey from Parental Pay Equality found that 70 per cent of families who depend on a self-employed income would use the scheme if it became available to them. By contrast, only two per cent of eligible families have used Shared Parental Leave so far.

Growth of the self-employed

Increased self-employment has been a distinguishing feature of the UK labour market’s recovery from the last recession. According to the CIPD, one in seven UK workers are now self-employed.

But self-employed pay and rights lag behind those enjoyed by conventional employees. By some counts, self-employed workers are paid less today than they were in 1995.

The growth of the so-called ‘gig economy,’ including workers for companies like Deliveroo and Uber, has contributed significantly to the discussion on employment status and rights. But self-employment is also common in the creative industries, as well as professions such as engineering and construction.

The CIPD suggest that the government should run a high-profile ‘know your rights’ campaign that clearly sets out the different types of employment status, and the subsequent rights people can expect.

Disparity of rights

Simplifying employment status legislation could be key to helping the self-employed know where they stand with regards to employment rights.

There were suggestions that the disparity in employment rights might change following the publication of the 2017 Taylor Report into modern working practices, but the report was criticised for not going far enough in considering what self-employment actually constitutes.

In particular, the Taylor Report stopped short of recommending a new statutory definition of self-employment. Such a definition would help in cases in which HMRC or employers disagree on the categorisation of an individual’s working status, and would go some way to clarifying the rights of those who fall outside of conventional employee or worker contracts.

Ms Brabin’s bill had its first reading on 21 February. If adopted, she says it will extend shared parental pay to as many as 44,000 more people.

Would you like to see more employment rights for the self-employed? Let us know in the comments below.

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