Collaboration no longer a dirty word for self-employed as they look to fill gaps left by Government

A new report, ‘The Self Organising Self-Employed’, commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), highlights how the self-employed are coming together to fill the gaps left by Government by pooling their resources in schemes that offer financial support and security.

Collaborative ideas, such as Bread Funds, allow the self-employed to contribute to a communal fund which can then be accessed to cover late payments or used to provide sick and maternity pay. This provides participating individuals the peace of mind that employees have when faced with hardship in their working life.

The emergence of such collaborative and supportive initiatives is a response to the unwillingness or inability of previous Governments to resolve issues facing the self-employed. This includes the clear disparity that exists in the social security system between the self-employed and employees.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman at FSB, said: “Since 2000, the UK has experienced a self-employment revolution and we now have 4.8 million people making the choice to go it alone. These ‘strivers’ have become the engine room of the economy and are driving growth and creating jobs.

“The stark reality is, that despite the self-employment boom changing the face of the modern workforce, the Government has not been quick enough to recognise this ‘sea-change’ and the self-employed are being left behind.

“They have fewer rights and fundamentally take on far more risk than employees. For example, when they fall ill they lack access to critical benefits such as sick pay that many employees take for granted. It has been left to the self-employed themselves to try and fill in the gap through innovative ideas such as cooperative models of savings and collective insurance models.

“These arrangements can provide the self-employed with a financial safety net if they fall sick or get injured at work. The Government should step in and provide equal maternity, paternity and adoption pay alongside addressing access to financial products such as mortgages.

“The Government needs to do more to actively support the self-employed or it risks endangering the positive growth we are seeing in the UK. Introducing changes, such as breaking down the regulatory barriers to self-organising arrangements, will encourage and foster the start-up of such schemes giving the self-employed the opportunity to invest in their security and future. With continuing political uncertainty, the Government must not now resurrect its failed attempt to clobber the 4.8 million self-employed ‘strivers’ in our country with a two percent tax hike. This is the last thing the economy needs.”

Commenting on the report, RSA Associate Director, Benedict Dellot, said: “Whether it is tech developers sharing workloads, interpreters and translators pooling marketing costs, or freelancers of all kinds clubbing together to create collective sick pay funds, the scope for self-organising to improve the lives of the self-employed is huge. With our political institutions gripped in turmoil, now more than ever workers need to look to themselves for a helping hand. It will take a Herculean effort of will and imagination for self-organising to go from the margins to the mainstream, but it is right to be ambitious. What’s to stop us from realizing a future where co-operative membership is the norm for business owners, where there is a collective sick pay fund in every town, and where user-own platform cooperatives give gig workers a stake in the on-demand industry they toil for.”