Opinion: Grant Speed

31 March 2017

Why Britain needs its independent workers

It was a memorable, if not humiliating, Budget for the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. The U-turn on plans to increase national insurance contributions will be welcomed by many, but the challenge on those that work alone remains and risks hurting a vital element of Britain’s workforce.

Of course, we can all agree that the Government is right to make sure that people are paying the right amount of tax. Yet, the current approach and treatment of self-employed workers and contractors needs to be thought through.

Some quick wins today might achieve a short term boost in tax receipts, but changes, such as the new IR35 rules for off-payroll workers in the public sector, risk creating significant problems further down the line in the flexibility and role diversity of the labour pool.

We should not forget the financial risk that many people take in becoming an independent worker.  Without the benefits of their permanent colleagues, such as pension contributions, sick leave and holiday pay, it takes great entrepreneurial courage to take full responsibility for winning work and building that business from scratch.

The current marginalisation of independent workers threatens to chip away at the benefits of choosing an alternative career path, which provides businesses and the public sector with expert consultants, flexible resource and access to a deep and diverse pool of experience. 

But now, management teams face significant change ahead. Beyond the daily threat of austerity and economic volatility, the likes of digital labour, the proliferation of data and rampant digital transformation are rapidly changing the way we all work and live and present even greater long-term hurdles to overcome. These are all challenges that will require fresh ideas, battle-tested knowledge and lessons learnt from other sectors and businesses to successfully navigate.

As such, we need to nurture independent workers – from interims and self-employed to contractors – and deeply consider the role they play in our society. Only when we truly understand the potential of our workforce, can we build an economy that has the resource to meet whatever its faces.

Grant Speed is Managing Director of Odgers Interim


Comments

M Illingworth at 07/04/2017 12:44 said:

It is not, I would suggest, just about expert 'consultants'. It is also about the expert interims who are often tasked implementing the recommendations of the consultants and adapting/interpreting those should (when) unforeseen issues arise.
Both are levels of skill that may not be needed full time by the organisation but have a vital role to play in the particular circumstances. Discouraging the existance of such a resource has to be counterproductive.

Denise McConnell at 03/04/2017 08:35 said:

Agreed Grant
HMRC have focused on individual tax receipts and seem to have ignored the very different status of the relationship between contractor and client, and employee and employer. The nature of the public sector employee contracts has created a need for the flexibility of contractors , which could be lost by driving us on to the payroll and employee status .

John bridges at 31/03/2017 15:18 said:

Yes, Grant

Anyone running a business should want to expert and motivated flexible labour to n today's climate.

Sad that the Govt is wrongly marginalising such talent.

Regards

John

Caroline Giles at 31/03/2017 15:02 said:

Well said Grant, it is often precarious and it's a big leap and risk. Having had to take one year off for 2 major operations, it has been a pretty difficult time. There is always I have said a difference between a contractor and a consultant and everything now looks to be treated as one and the same just to make it even more confusing. I've always adhered to IR35 and been quite aware of it in running a business/s. Interims may have to get quite tough around commercials and terms and conditions if we are to continue with a healthy independent sector particularly those who advise the public sector which ultimately will be a great loss.

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