HR · 16 November 2016

Latest employment figures confirm popularity of self-employment

Around 213,000 people have registered for self-employment in the last year

Self-employment in the workforce shows no sign of slowing, as the latest UK employment statistics have revealed the lowest unemployment rate for 11 years.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for July to September 2016 has highlighted that the popularity of self-employment continues to rise.

Since the same period a year ago, the number of self-employed has increased by 213,000, and now totals 15.1 per cent of all workers.

The employment statistics also show an increase of 350,000 people in full-time jobs compared with the same period in 2015, with 23.24m of the population now in full-time work.

The data suggests that small business owners have looked to recruit new staff in 2016, particularly on a part-time basis. There are now 8.56m people in the UK working part-time, a jump of 110,000 since last year.

National chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Mike Cherry, welcomed the findings. “More people in work is testament to the hard work of small business [and] the fall in unemployment is especially welcome,” he said.

“Those moving from unemployment into work are much more likely to become self-employed or work for a small business than a large business.”

Cherry encouraged the government to use the latest employment data as evidence that small business owners, including self-employed, required greater protection and more security.

Anticipating the chancellor Phillip Hammond’s first Autumn Statement on 23 November, Cherry said: “Small businesses need government to reaffirm its commitment to permanently increase business rate relief.”

Other government priorities should be to boost “much-needed infrastructure investment, including access to superfast broadband, and making clear there will be no increase in the small business tax burden,” added Cherry.

Last month, after months of battling, an employment tribunal finally introduced legislation that would protect the rights of cab drivers working for tech giant Uber – a move which could have lasting implications for the status of self-employed workers in the UK’s so-called gig economy.

Believing that Uber had been “unlawfully denying drivers fundamental rights” such as holiday pay and the minimum wage, the private hire drivers’ union GMB took the firm to a tribunal after demanding it re-classify the employment status of its workforce.

The GMB has since described the tribunal’s decision as “monumental” and has called for similar contracts “masquerading as bogus self-employment” to be reviewed.

Catch up on why the Labour Party has promised a stronger safety net for self-employed workers

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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