Self-employed workers ‘getting the worst of both worlds’, says think tank



Workers report lack of autonomy and unpaid overtime in new survey; minister hails ‘exciting’ potential of gig economy

A new report from the Social Market Foundation, a think tank, has highlighted the divide between employees and self-employed.

While four-fifths (80 per cent) of the self-employed reported ‘a lot’ of autonomy over their working tasks, one in five did not – despite this being one of the most widely hailed benefits of being self-employed. Two-thirds (68 per cent) of the self-employed reported ‘a lot’ of freedom over hours, but one in three said they couldn’t choose their hours, according to the report.

Almost three-quarters (71 per cent) of self-employed workers who did overtime did so unpaid, compared to 62 per cent of traditional employees.

The self-employed were also half as likely to receive formal training as employees were (4 per cent, compared to 8 per cent), while traditional employees took double the amount of sick days as self-employed workers (2 per cent compared to 1 per cent respectively).

Emran Mian, director of the Social Market Foundation, emphasised the lack of support for self-employed workers. “[The data] suggests that self-employed workers may be getting the worst of both worlds… people may behave very much like employees and yet lack the rights and protections of employees,” he said.

However, in a speech this week the work and pensions secretary, Damian Green, said the burgeoning gig economy was “exciting”, and that self-employed workers had the freedom to “pick and mix their employers, their hours, their offices and their holiday patterns”.

He added: “This is one of the most significant developments in the labour market. The potential is huge and the change is exciting.”

His views comes just one month after an employment tribunal found that Uber drivers should be classed as employees, and receive the minimum wage and paid holiday.

Green also said the gig economy had paved the way for the “everyday entrepreneur”. He said: “Just a few years ago the idea of a ‘proper’ job meant a job that brings in a fixed monthly salary, with fixed hours, paid holidays, sick pay, a pension scheme and other contractual benefits.

“But the gig economy has changed all that; we’ve seen the rise of the everyday entrepreneur. People now own their time and control who receives their services and when.”

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