James Moore: Ministers make life harder for freelancers


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The Independent Online

Outlook Some good news for the Chancellor: unemployment has fallen again, to a six-year low. Moreover, the proportion of the part-timers who would like to be employed full time is also falling, to 16.2 per cent in the three months to November, down from 18 per cent  a year ago.

The level of self employment also appears to be decreasing. However, it’s unlikely that their numbers will ever fall to pre-recession levels. The rise of the part-timer, the freelancer and the contract worker has become a feature of the British labour force in recent years. In fact the TUC predicts that “under-employment” won’t return to a pre-crisis level until 2023.

That really ought to temper any crowing from ministers. They should focus on the challenges faced by these groups, and on the protection they lack.

By coincidence the Association for Independent Professionals and the Self Employed yesterday highlighted plans by the Ministry of Justice to increase, sharply, the cost of pursuing claims for late payment.

The Bar Council is similarly unhappy, warning proposals to impose a blanket 5 per cent fee on businesses and individuals bringing claims of up to £200,000, and a minimum fee of £10,000 for larger claims, will deter many from pursuing money they are owed.

Given the importance of freelancers to the economy (not to mention small businesses) these priorities seem topsy-turvy. Ministers’ focus should be on making the process cheaper and putting pressure on those who have been provided with a service to pay up.