Small Business Commissioner

A perennial problem for the self-employed is late payment – 71% of disputes self-employed workers have with clients are because of this issue. This causes a range of issues for the self-employed, not least serious cash flow problems. There is also very little recourse self-employed people have without assuming high legal fees, or damaging relationships with their clients.

In our 2014 manifesto, IPSE proposed the creation of a small business commissioner. In October 2017, the government put IPSE’s recommendation into action and appointed Paul Uppal to the newly-established post. A central part of the small business commissioner’s remit is to drive a culture change in payment practices. To achieve this, it is essential that the commissioner has the power to name and shame clients who unreasonably refuse to cooperate on payment issues.


IPSE also wants the commissioner to look at the problem of unpaid work, particularly in the creative industries. In these saturated sectors, unscrupulous businesses are exploiting people’s desperation to get their foot in the door. Research conducted by IPSE and The Freelancer Club found that freelancers working in creative industries lose out on £5,400 of income each year in contracts that don’t pay. This is not an issue limited to those starting out – the average freelancer engaging in unpaid work has 7 years of experience.


In the past few years, significant media coverage and will from parliament has led to unpaid internships being considerably rarer than before. The commissioner needs to champion a similar cultural change in the creative industries to stop a situation in which only those with deep pockets can afford to freelance.