Last week, Wednesday 18th May, the Queen’s speech set out the government’s agenda for the year. The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) were quick to point out that many issues facing freelancers and the self-employed were not addressed.
The speech largely ignored The Deane Review, particularly regarding the issue of maternity pay. At the moment there is a significant difference in the amount that self-employed parents are entitled to in comparison to employed parents.
The Deane Review
The Deane Review was an independent report published earlier this year by Julie Deane, CEO and founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company. The review was commissioned by the Prime Minister in 2015 and puts forward recommendations for what can be done to help the increasing amount of self-employed people.
One key feature of the report is the recommendation that the government recognise the equality of self-employed parents regarding parental leave. Self-employed people are disadvantaged because they have a lower rate of Maternity Allowance during the first 6 weeks of leave. Similarly, the report urges the government to consider a new Adoption Allowance in line with Statutory Adoption Pay that employed people are entitled to.
The report called for more flexible financial solutions for pensions, mortgages and insurance. Freelancers in particular struggle with these issues. Despite this, the amount of people becoming self-employed is on the rise, and financial burdens are just one of the things that stand in the way of them building a business.
IPSE called for the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) to set up a new pension scheme for the self-employed. This new flexible scheme would allow people to withdraw the last two years of contributions without penalty. This would then encourage more self-employed people to save for retirement and encourage more people to start businesses without the fear of financial instability.
Other recommendations included making the government’s website easier and more accessible for self-employed people due to there being a lot of confusion. Deane also recommended that more information on shared workspaces become available because the need for them is increasing. She brought up the possibility of incorporating shared workspaces in libraries and community centres for entrepreneurs to come together and use facilities to help them grow their businesses in a public space.
David Cameron thanked Deane for her recommendations and promised to carefully consider them. However, most of these issues haven’t been addressed. Little has changed on the website and public spaces are losing government funding. With the confusion surrounding IR35, some have argued that the government is making it harder for freelancers and contractors.
Not all bad news
The Queen’s speech wasn’t all bad news for freelancers. The lack of accessible high speed broadband was addressed due to the impact that has on businesses all over the country. Ofcom found that 42% of the UK’s microbusinesses don’t have high speed broadband.
The government introduced The Digital Economy Bill in response which is part of the government’s UK Digital Strategy agenda. This will give every household the legal right to a high speed broadband connection.
This is good news for freelancers who require a good internet connection in order to do business, market and communicate. It is also good news for businesses in rural areas which have always struggled with poor connectivity.
Though without a new pension scheme, freelancers can now make use of the new Lifetime ISA (LISA) which was announced in the Budget last month. The LISA will allow people to save up to £4,000 a year with an extra 25% from the government to use for either buying a home or saving for a pension. This might make it easier for freelancers to save for a pension but experts have warned that the LISA should not be used to replace a pension scheme and that people should still save through the traditional methods.
What do you think about the Deane Review or the Queen’s speech? Should more be done to help freelancers? Let us know what you think below.