CEO update June: A month that shows that more than ever, we are truly representing all the self-employed

Wherever you’re reading this, hello and I hope you’re keeping safe and enjoying the blistering June sunshine. This is the first of what will now be monthly updates from me about how we are working to represent you, our members, and pushing the interests of self-employed people right across the UK.

June is the perfect time to start this monthly update, because this month we’ve done a tremendous amount to represent and bring together freelancers of all stripes. At the end of June, the month of our annual celebration of self-employment, National Freelancers Day, we can truly say we are doing more than ever before to represent and support all parts of the diverse self-employed community.

A (virtual) NFD to remember

Every year, National Freelancers Day is a way of bringing together the freelance community and celebrating their fantastic achievements. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis and facing a period of serious economic instability, this year’s event was necessarily a celebration with a more sombre tone – and had to take place virtually. Providing a balance of networking, advice and support to the freelance community in these uncertain times, it was an enormous success, and in many ways more important than ever.

We had fantastic speakers, from Small Business Commissioner Philip King and Financial Times journalist Emma Agyemang, to experts in mental health, marketing and even Pilates. They were able to offer advice on all aspects of freelancing during the coronavirus crisis and how self-employed people can kickstart their businesses again. It was an inspiring day that showed how much we can do for freelancers across the UK even when we can’t bring them together in person. Thank you to all of you who came and everyone who made it happen. And, if you didn’t manage to join us on the day, you can still pay to listen back to all the webinars and advice sessions by contacting our Events team.

Supporting the self-employed all year round

National Freelancers Day is one big day in the year, but we are also finding new ways to help the diverse self-employed community all the year round. At the start of this month, we announced the launch of Freelance Corner, a new platform and set of membership packages to support freelancers and sole traders particularly in the creative industries. And I’m delighted to say we’ve already seen a lot of interest and take-up. If you have friends or family who are creative freelancers, help us and help them by spreading the word about Freelance Corner.

Coronavirus support for freelancers

As we expand into representing different parts of the self-employed community, we are also, of course, still campaigning hard for our core membership on the issues we know are so important to you. This month, the Treasury Select Committee published a report about freelancers who are falling through the gaps in government support. It was a report we played a major part in putting together: in fact, it directly put our recommendation for supporting limited companies to the government, saying:

The Government must find a practical solution to supporting the many limited company directors who are missing out on support because they pay themselves in dividends. IPSE has presented the Treasury with a ready-made solution and we urge the Government to accept and implement this proposal.

Away from Parliament we continue to highlight the groups that urgently need more support from the government. This month, we published new research with the University of Edinburgh, which showed that one in five highly skilled freelancers fear they may have to close their business because of coronavirus – despite the government support. The results were reported in the Daily Telegraph and we’ve warned the government about this drastic state of affairs.

We also published a short report about disabled self-employed people and their experiences during lockdown. Shockingly, at least 50,000 are not getting support from the government because they only recently became self-employed – and this in a group that reports more difficulty getting contracts and lower earnings anyway. Again, we are highlighting this to the government and working hard to get more support for these people.

IR35 and a damaged economy

The changes to IR35 may have been delayed until next year, but they are still a very serious threat to the self-employed sector and the economy. That is why we have written a letter to the Chancellor, which the Federation of Small Businesses agreed to support, urging him to rethink the legislation. Many self-employed people working through limited companies haven’t had the support they need during coronavirus and they cannot bear the brunt of these ill-conceived changes now. The economy is in dangerously choppy waters and the IR35 changes will harm not only contractors, but the businesses that use them and the wider economy too. This is the case we are putting to the Chancellor: there could not be a worse time to introduce these changes.

Dark clouds, but rays of Sun

With the economy in turmoil and not enough support out there, we know these are dark times for the self-employed. However, I firmly believe there is room for hope. With National Freelancers Day this year, we showed that however far apart freelancers are and whatever their circumstances, we can bring them together. With Freelance Corner, we’ve shown we are able to support more sections of the self-employed community than ever before. And, with the Treasury Select Committee directly pushing our recommendations to the government, we’ve shown our campaigning is having a major impact.

This month also saw IPSE joining the Sun’s “Corona Crew” (you don’t get to choose the names with journalists). In this advisory panel, we helped self-employed people from across the UK with whatever matters they were struggling with in the coronavirus crisis: from sole traders and contractors to creative freelancers and white van men. For me, you couldn’t find a better way to show that despite these dark times, IPSE can now do more than ever to help, represent and be the true voice of all the freelancing community.

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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.