Vulnerable self-employment

This report was a Finalist at the 2018 Trade Association Forum Awards

Download the report here

Whether it’s record-breaking figures, the “gig economy” or debates about taxation, self-employment is rarely out of the headlines. One in seven UK workers are now self-employed, but confusion still reigns about who exactly they are and what self-employment is like for them. Much of the public debate about this crucial part of the labour market is polarised or even misleading.

Although the vast majority of self-employed people are happy working for themselves, we should be looking at ways of supporting others who do not enjoy the same benefits from this way of working. A growing number of organisations are now contributing to the debate about vulnerable self-employment. Some refer to it as “precarious self-employment”, and others prefer the term “insecure work”.

As organisations who represent the self-employed, IPSE and Community Trade Union have partnered together to shed light on the true extent of vulnerable self-employment, and outline the practical solutions policymakers should explore to address it.

What we found

  • The proportion of self-employed people at risk of being vulnerable is between 9 and 13 per cent of the self-employed population
  • These individuals find it hard to save for a pension and include occupations such as drivers, cleaners, mechanics, child minders and carers
  • 1.2 per cent of those at risk of being in vulnerable self-employment do not have any qualifications at all
  • Those in vulnerable self-employment find it difficult to save for a pension

Our solutions 

  • Improve access to training
  • Ensure Universal Credit works for the self-employed
  • Create a self-employment benefits package
  • Strengthen protection against late payments and no pay
  • Introduce a statutory definition of self-employment
  • Incentivise ways for the self-employed to come together, whether through mutual assistance groups, co-operatives, trade unions or membership organisations