Memcom Awards: How IPSE was named Membership Organisation of the Year

2020 -21 was an exceptionally difficult period for the UK’s self-employed sector and an incredibly busy period for IPSE. From our response to the coronavirus crisis, our efforts to delay the introduction of IR35 in the private sector and with Brexit to contend with as well, we worked hard to highlight the importance of the self-employed in a rapidly changing political environment.


Communicating with members

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve built up more lines of communication with members – giving them the latest news and developments and also getting their feedback and ideas. Since March, we’ve had weekly newsletters and webinars to keep in touch.

As well as our Members’ Forum, we launched our Policy and Research Committee – to get members’ input into our campaigning. Most importantly, we conducted a membership survey to understand what they want and how we can improve. With it, we’ve made big improvements to IPSE, giving people more from their membership, getting them more involved in our policy work and direction – and helping them to understand all of their membership benefits.

Campaigning

Over the last year we have met with government ministers at the highest level, including the Chancellor, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Secretary of State for Business and Small Business Minister Paul Scully, as well as key ministers with responsibility for self-employment policies in the Department for Work & Pensions to discuss issues around self-employment and represent the interests of the sector.

We have appeared in front of influential political audiences, such as the Commons Business Select Committee and Treasury Select Committee to discuss coronavirus support, the Lords Finance Bill Committee on IR35 and the London Assembly to highlight the importance of freelancers in the capital.

Coronavirus

IPSE proposed an emergency fund for the self-employed at the outset of the coronavirus crisis and was instrumental in the government’s decision to provide support to the struggling sector.

Our campaigning, and our discussions with Chancellor Rishi Sunak led directly to the creation of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. The Chancellor directly thanked IPSE when he announced the scheme in March.

But SEISS isn’t perfect and IPSE is still driving a major campaign to draw attention to the gaps in support. Following our evidence to the Treasury Select Committee, the Committee gave its support to IPSE’s proposal to include limited company directors’ dividends in SEISS – adopting it in their recommendations to the Treasury.

Taxation

IPSE mounted a national campaign that brought major media and public attention and helped delay IR35 until April 2021. While we could not secure a further delay to implementation, in the face of an 80-seat government majority we forced a Commons vote on an amendment to the rollout of IR35 in the Finance Bill that won the support of 254 MPs – including the Labour Party and prominent Conservative backbenchers – demonstrating the strength of opposition to the changes. We also secured the small business exemption for IR35, which will benefit contractors working for small clients.

IPSE continues to push for a fundamental review of the tax system to make it fairer for the self-employed and we took that message directly to the Treasury Committee in our second appearance before it last year.

Press Coverage / Awareness

Between 2019 and 2020, total awareness of IPSE among self-employed rose from 10% to 18%. This was largely down to us generating more media coverage than ever, some of the highlights of which are:

  • IPSE had a peak online coverage reach of over 1bn in April 2020. Throughout the year, IPSE’s coverage was over 5bn online reach, 290m print and 250m broadcast.

  • IPSE appeared on BBC Radio 4 over 20 times in the year; LBC Radio over 30 times in the year; Sky TV 8 times and on BBC News TV 12 times

National Freelancers Day

National Freelancers Day (NFD) is IPSE’s annual flagship event to bring together freelancers from across the UK. Planned for 18 June 2020 at Kings Place in London, the programme included 30+ speakers, keynotes, sponsors, break-out sessions, exhibitors, an after party and national fringe events. When the coronavirus pandemic hit, it soon became apparent that NFD could not take place in its usual format. We had to transform it into a virtual event.

We had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the event, which showed that by running our first virtual flagship event, we created the most relevant and important NFD to date. The event was more accessible and inclusive than before. 370 people attended from all around the UK and for the first time in the event’s history, internationally from Europe and the USA.

Other events

In 2020 IPSE delivered 84 webinars to a combined audience of over 10,500 and received extremely positive feedback: 92% of attendees said they would recommend our webinars to others.

In the early days of the pandemic, we hosted weekly webinars to support members with advice and guidance. Guests have included Small Business Minister Paul Scully, Liberal Democrat Leader Sir Ed Davey and Shadow Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury Abena Oppong Asare MP.

Our webinars are listed on the government website as an official source of advice on coronavirus business support.

Research

IPSE’s research team ran a packed schedule of research throughout the year to explore the self-employed landscape, examine the key issues and concerns of the sector and gather evidence to support IPSE’s policy positions.

Highlights include:

  • IPSE’s Landscape Report which measures demographics among the self-employed
  • The Mental Health report examining the impact of Covid on those working for themselves
  • The Longitudinal Confidence Index – a culmination of seven years’ research on the state of self-employment

Summary

IPSE rose to the unique challenge presented by 2020. We engaged with our members more than ever before, worked with the highest levels of government to deliver ground-breaking support schemes during the pandemic, shifted our flagship NFD event to a virtual platform, delivered agenda-setting research all while keeping our members at the heart of everything we do.

Meet the author

IPSE
IPSE is the leading association for contractors, consultants, interims, freelancers and the self-employed. We strive to bring our members the most comprehensive and useful range of information and services and all the latest news about what affects your business.

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