Broad one-policy-fits-all approaches for self-employment are very dangerous and run the risk of damaging the UK economy, Professor Andrew Burke, Chair of the Centre for Research on Self-Employment (CRSE), told the Taylor Review into modern employment practices earlier this week. 

Speaking in Belfast, Professor Burke, also the Dean of Trinity Business School, Trinity College Dublin, said: “The UK Government should recognise the diversity among the self-employed and public policy must be specifically suited to the various segments of the self-employed workforce. 

“Broad-brush, one-size-fits-all policy approaches to the treatment of taxation and rights for the self-employed are very dangerous and carry a great risk to the UK economy. The highly-skilled self-employed make a significant economic contribution which shouldn’t be undervalued.”

The review’s evidence gathering tour, consisting of ten sector-specific events around the UK, will tackle issues central to self-employment such as the gig economy and aims to fully ascertain the impact and patterns of modern employment.

In the fourth review event held on Tuesday 14th March, Professor Burke provided evidence alongside guests from Uber, Northern Ireland Citizen Advice and Northern Ireland TUC.

Professor Burke continued: “Safeguards are required to protect low skilled precariat, sometimes bogus, self-employed, but simultaneously, good policy should protect the freedom and legitimise genuine higher skilled ‘privileged’ freelancers. Genuine freelancers are distinguished by their ability to do project based work, receiving payment for the output of their work and having multiple clients.

“The ‘privileged’ - so-called because they typically earn a higher income than equivalent employees - provide diverse expertise on a variable cost basis. This enables entrepreneurship and innovation which ultimately catalyses economic growth and creates jobs. These ‘privileged’ self-employed are a key driver of the UK economy. 

“Any legislation creating rights for the ‘vulnerable’ end of the workforce, or preventing bogus self-employment, mustn’t prevent ‘privileged’ genuine freelancers adding great value to businesses or giving firms the confidence to use them without fear of being unfairly stigmatised. 

“I also support the Taylor Review’s suggestions that the Government should give more support to parents considering self-employment as a means of working more flexibly in order to deal with childcare commitments.”

The Taylor review arrives at a time when the CRSE is conducting landmark segmentation analysis to distinguish between the different segments of self-employment for purposes of tax, benefits and employment law. It intends to illustrate that differentiated policy approaches are required which recognise and cater to the differing needs of the self-employed.