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Secure self-employment: about the campaign

Self-employment is now a mainstream career option and works well for many people, but it can be complicated, particularly when you’re first starting.

Citizens Advice wants simpler and more responsive policies that give self-employed people the security to plan and balance their lives, while developing their business.

But we also want to reduce “bogus” self-employment, where people whose work has all the hallmarks of employment have been classified as self-employed and had their rights compromised, to reduce their employers’ costs and responsibilities.

What do we want to achieve?

The campaign has five key objectives:

  1. Self-employed people should have the same simple systems as employees to encourage them to save for retirement;
  2. Self-employed parents should be better supported to balance family life and work;
  3. The self-employed should not be disadvantaged by planned reforms to income tax and national insurance;
  4. Newly self-employed people should have specialist and flexible welfare support to allow their business time to develop to its full potential;
  5. No employee should be forced into self-employment or wrongly classed as self-employed.

Why are we running this campaign now?

UK self-employment has risen to nearly 15% of the workforce, with more women in particular starting their own businesses. Yet self-employed life can be insecure: since the 2008 recession the average earnings of self-employed people have fallen much faster than those of employees.

As the labour market has changed, so too has our client base: local Citizens Advice now see an increased number of self-employed clients - up 50% since 2011. Over 56% of our clients who ask for advice on self-employment issues earn below the national minimum wage for a 35 hour week. These clients also most commonly have debt, employment and benefit issues.

The higher numbers of people working for themselves as a mainstream career choice has drawn attention to the lack of flexibility in today’s systems. These were set up when most people were long-term employees with fixed salaries, and they often leave self-employed people with no support, or employees more at risk of “bogus” self-employment. Put simply, state support and policies have not kept pace with changes in the labour market.

Policy makers are increasingly aware that this is not sustainable, and this autumn sees the launch of a range of reviews and consultations to develop solutions. Government’s focus on the self-employed is welcome, and our campaign is timed to ensure that Citizens Advice data and research inform the outcomes of these reviews.