Work and Wellbeing · 28 June 2018

National Freelancers Day: 7 policies that could improve the lives of self-employed workers

National Freelancer Day
Britain’s freelance workforce is continuing to grow

With National Freelancers Day putting the spotlight on Britain’s self-employed, experts have put forward a series of recommendations to protect the wellbeing of the country’s freelance workforce.

The Way to Wellbeing report, published to coincide with National Freelancers Day by the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE), challenged self-employed wellbeing through the “conventional prism” of economic success to draw focus towards overall life satisfaction.

The analysis took a holistic approach by considering income, health, family life and leisure, also identifiying “striking” differences between the employed and self-employed

Among the report’s recommendations for policy makers were pushes for greater access to working spaces, training and mentoring opportunities.

Here are the seven key messages put forward by the report’s author, Martin Binder, professor of economics at Bard College Berlin.

  1. Access to mentoring

“Ensure better and faster access to mentoring when starting out and during business crisis periods to reduce stress and improve confidence in crucial times. This can be done by embedding mentoring in job centres.”

  1. Skills-development resources

“Increase confidence by improving access to skills-development resources tailored to the self-employed. The Treasury could also make skills development more cost-effective by extending tax allowances to cover new skills and by granting self-employed people training vouchers.”

  1. More co-working spaces

“Create more co-working spaces to combat the sense of isolation the self-employed often experience, allowing them to work together and also share insurances, childcare and other business-related services. This is something that can be achieved by government, co-operatives and professional organisations working together to incentivise the creation of more spaces.”

  1. Abolish the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA)

“Abolish the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) or improve its extremely low uptake by offering accompanying training and mentoring – particularly confidence-building measures for people who are self-employed because of a lack of other employment opportunities.”

  1. Normalise failure

“Create a more appreciative culture where business failures are seen as a normal part of entrepreneurial life, not as personal failures of the self-employed. This can be done by reforming bankruptcy regulation to allow for good faith business failures.”

  1. Introduce specialised finance products

“Prioritise solutions that help reduce the stress caused by irregular cash flows. The banking industry should introduce self-employment-friendly banking services, as well as informational campaigns and online resources to promote existing funding and emergency credit initiatives.”

  1. Improve the long-term financial sustainability of the self-employed

“The DWP and pension providers should introduce financial products and information about saving for later life that are specifically tailored to the self-employed. In particular, the ‘default’ or ‘sidecar’ model, where a portion of monthly earnings is automatically ‘defaulted’ to an accessible savings account.”

Read more advice for freelancers and the self-employed:

Welcoming the report, Chris Bryce, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the organisation behind National Freelancers Day, said recognition of Britain’s freelancers was vital.

“This timely report shows why we at IPSE are working day-in, day-out to support self-employment and open it up to more people,” Bryce said.

“Being your own boss, picking your own projects and choosing how and when you work can clearly improve wellbeing for millions of people across the UK.”

“As this report shows though, it’s not a completely even picture. There are still some areas of self-employment where policymakers and business leaders need to do more to improve wellbeing. That’s what this year’s National Freelancers Day is all about, and we hope policymakers will take note of both the day and the recommendations in this excellent report to start making self-employment work for everyone.”

Suneeta Johal, CRSE director, said it was “more important than ever” to understand the impact of the freelance lifestyle on people.

“It’s clear from this report that at the moment it’s a distinctly mixed picture, and it’s time for policymakers and business leaders to step up and do more to improve the life satisfaction of the self-employed. Not with broad-brush, heavy-handed policies, but with targeted, effective policies – like the ones recommended in this report – that work for all different self-employed groups.

“Because actually, when you improve the subjective wellbeing of the self-employed, it’s not just them who benefit – it’s businesses across the country and our whole economy. Government and other policy makers must take heed of this report’s recommendations and make sure self-employment stays a positive way of working for all.”

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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