Election 2019: What are the parties saying about the self-employed?

By Tristan Grove
Chief Correspondent

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Although this was said to be the great Brexit election – a second referendum wrapped in general election form – it has actually fanned out into many different policy areas. And one issue that has cropped up frequently is self-employment.

The Liberal Democrats in particular have adopted a raft of popular freelancer-specific policies (in part, it would seem, because of freelancer group IPSE’s #5millionvotes campaign).

To find out more, Modern Work reached out to all the parties to see how their freelancer offerings compare.

The Liberal Democrat Party

A spokesperson said: “Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for the self-employed by providing free childcare for all children of working parents from nine months old.

“We would also create a new ‘start-up allowance’ worth £2,600 to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business.

“The Liberal Democrats are the only party that will stop Brexit on day one, so we can focus on strengthening the economy and invest the £50 billion Remain bonus in our public services.”

The party’s manifesto also includes commitments to: review the changes to IR35; sign public sector bodies and big businesses up to the Prompt Payment Code; end retrospective tax changes like the loan charge and extend parental leave and parental pay to freelancers.

The Labour Party

A spokesperson said: “Self-employment is a vital and growing sector of our economy, but too many self-employed workers are currently unsupported. Labour will not increase NICs [National Insurance Contributions], we’ll seek to develop collective insurance schemes to give self-employed people access to rights like sick pay and make emergency reforms to Universal Credit.

“We will crack down on late payments, banning late payers from bidding for public sector contracts, and introduce stronger rights for small suppliers when companies like Carillion go bust.

“We’ll also ensure better access to finance through a Post Bank, offering face-to-face relationship banking in communities, and give councils powers to turn empty high street properties into business and community hubs.”

The Conservative Party

The party did not respond to our request for comment. However, they have said they will cut NICs by raising the threshold from £8,632 to £9,500 next year and eventually raise it to £12,500. They claim this would lead to an extra £500 a year for all workers, including the self-employed.

They have also postponed planned Corporation Tax cuts and promised to reduce the “overall burden” of business rates, particularly focusing on reliefs for small businesses. The party’s commitment to invest £5bn in gigabit broadband rollout across the UK could also help freelancers – especially in rural areas.

The Scottish National Party

The party did not respond to our request for comment. However, the SNP has generally been open and responsive to freelancer groups.

In government, the SNP created the £500m Scottish Growth Scheme to help small businesses access investment and grow. It also invested £400m to improve broadband connectivity – especially in more remote parts of Scotland.

The Green Party

A spokesperson said: “Our proposal for a Universal Basic Income will massively help the self-employed. It will give every self-employed person an unconditional payment of £89 a week, giving them access to stability during periods of illness or periods where work is not available. It will also entitle them to a full pension payment of £178 a week when they retire.

“We will also help workers in the gig economy, closing loopholes that allow employers in the gig economy to deny gig workers key rights.”

The Brexit Party

Nigel Farage’s party were contacted for comment but did not reply. However, Farage reported in The Telegraph, that his party is proposing a “£10,000 allowance” for UK businesses before tax. He said: “This will remove the bureaucratic burden and encourage people to set up their own firms. There are 5.7m people in this country who run their own businesses or act as sole traders. They will drive much of the UK economy’s growth and must be treated fairly.”

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