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APSCo and IPSE highlight distinctions between vulnerable and career freelancers

by Jasmin Swayne

16 February 2017 Category Contracting News
16 February 2017, Comments 0

The independent review of UK employment practices led by Matthew Taylor has now heard evidence from professional recruitment body the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo).

The review was set up by Prime Minister Theresa May to examine how modern business models are generating new employment practices and how they might best be regulated.

In her evidence to the review, APSCo’s General Counsel, Tania Bowers, pointed out that the emphasis of most media coverage of Mr Taylor’s review has been on the relationship between the lower-skilled, lower-paid end of the employment market and the emerging gig economy as well as on the supposed tax advantages of self-employment.

However, she highlighted the fact that this is but one section of the labour market. APSCo members, for example, recruit for professional sectors such as IT, finance, banking, engineering and the life sciences – disciplines that frequently require the input of highly skilled and well-remunerated contracting professionals.

Ms Bowers underlined the fact that these professionals, who may work via their own personal service companies (PSCs) or as Umbrella Company Employees, are driven by a willingness to exchange traditional job security for flexibility and control, not by the so-called tax incentives of self-employment.

“We want to promote a more positive narrative around responsible recruitment practices and the established routes to market which they offer,” she said.

Ms Bowers concluded by highlighting the benefits that flexible contracting professionals bring to the economy and emphasised that it is “critical” to distinguish them within the gig economy from the lower-skilled, lower-paid end of the spectrum. It is equally important, Bowers added, to broaden the conversation from a perspective focusing purely on speculation around a taxation shortfall.

Meanwhile, contractor group the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) responded to comments that Mr Taylor made this week to the BBC, in which he drew attention to the need to differentiate between vulnerable and career freelancers.

IPSE’s Director of Policy and External Affairs, Simon McVicker, acknowledged that some unscrupulous businesses are exploiting lower-paid self-employed workers to deny them proper employment protections. He went on: “At the same time, those who freelance through choice, not necessity – making up the vast majority of the UK’s 1.91 million independent professionals – must be supported through better pension provision, flexible financial solutions and access to training opportunities.”

He called on the Government to refine its definitions of freelancing and self-employment to ensure that everyone’s thinking is properly aligned. Noting that the suggestions for better policy made by the Government-commissioned Deane Review last year have so far been ignored, McVicker added: “The Taylor Review has to be different.”