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Labour must ‘woo’ self-employed ahead of general election 

Self-styled manifesto calls on party to deliver greater protections to self-employed ahead of general election

The Labour Party has been urged to put in place a number of protections for the self-employed who will have a “decisive role” in deciding who leads the next government.

A left-leaning think tank, the Fabian Society, has produced a ‘manifesto’ that puts forward a range of policy recommendations for an incoming government.

Titled ‘Working for you: A progressive manifesto for the self-employed’the report was launched last week (24th July), and produced with input from two trade unions: Bectu (previously known as Prospect) and Community.

The self-styled manifesto estimates that there are up to a million self-employed people in “marginal constituencies” that could influence the outcome of the next general election, which will take place no later than January 2025.

As such, the report says, politicians “need to show they are tuned-in to the needs and aspirations of the self-employed” and begin delivering meaningful policies.


Overview of proposals

While the manifesto notes that self-employed workers “contributed £305bn to the UK’s economic output” in 2019 (equivalent to 14% of GDP), it points out that they currently get “a raw deal”. 

Being “more exposed to the ebbs and flows of the business cycle”, and plagued by “late payment or underpayment”, self-employed workers have also endured tax increases and the roll-out of IR35 reform.

The report also lists a range of issues currently affecting the sector. These include shrinking earnings, fewer protections than permanent employees, and “more pronounced” income gaps for underrepresented sections of the workforce.

However, it also suggests that “any party with ambitions to govern should have a plan to meet these challenges”. It outlines its proposals and splits them into three broad pillars: Good Work, Financial Security and Business Support.

Under Good Work, the manifesto suggests appointing a ‘tsar’ or ‘commissioner’. It recommends that this person would “develop a strategy to coordinate government activity on self-employed rights and entitlements” and champion the interest of self-employed workers at government level. 

Meanwhile, under Financial Security, the report suggests introducing parity for self-employed workers for entitlements such as sick pay and parental leave.

Under Business Support, the report calls for legislation to eliminate late payments. It suggests that payments later than 60 days should be made “unlawful”, through appropriate legislation. 


“Hugely encouraging” proposals

The manifesto puts forward several suggestions which would have broad appeal to the UK’s self-employed workforce, bolstering existing protections and introducing new obligations.

Quoted in the Guardian when speaking at the manifesto launch, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Angela Rayner, welcomed its recommendations.

Recognising that “self-employed workers are vital to get our economy growing again”, Rayner also accused the current government of taking the self-employed for granted.

“For too long, self-employed workers have been treated by this government as nothing more than an afterthought”, she said.

Hinting at Labour’s ambitions, Rayner also said that the self-employed “deserve respect”, and “never again will they be forgotten and excluded as they were during the Covid pandemic”.

In an online blog, IPSE said it was “hugely encouraging to see that IPSE research and ideas had influenced” the manifesto. Admitting that it “is not a party-political organisation”, the body is “nonetheless hugely supportive of efforts to create dedicated policy for the self-employed.”

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