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Self-employment rights Bill supported across all parties
by Richard Powell at 18:40 17/01/02 (Political News)
A proposed Bill that aims to provide more certainty for the UK's self-employed has been met with cross-party and industry support after it was presented to the House of Commons recently.
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  • Mark Prisk, Conservative MP for Hertford and Stortford, received support from Labour, Liberal Democrat and industry representatives after he introduced the Bill, entitled 'The Right to Be Self-Employed.'

    Mr Prisk told MPs the current approach to defining self-employed status is: 'confusing, wasteful, adversarial and unfair.'

    The purpose of the Bill, he said, is: "to reverse this situation by creating a right to become self-employed, removing the confusion of ever-changing rules, and switching the burden of proof from the individual to the state by requiring individuals to register as self-employed."

    The main aims of the Bill, according to Mr Prisk:

    • 'By registering, a self-employed individual would make an informed and positive choice;
    • 'Registration would remove the need to continue to rely on ever-changing case law;
    • 'Government agencies would be entitled to challenge that registration for a period of up to six months;
    • 'When an individual registers, they would be required to have insurance cover appropriate to the nature of their work;
    • 'Registration would allow people to opt out of paying Class 4 national insurance contributions (given that state benefits are fully paid for by Class 2 contributions);
    • 'It would give people a real freedom of choice whilst emphasising their responsibilities;
    • 'It would bring relative certainty for most small enterprises- an essential ingredient for good business;
    • 'It would save millions of productive working days, and thereby millions of pounds in lost revenue for the Government;
    • 'It would significantly reduce the need for the Government to constantly redefine self-employment in order to regulate and tax that activity;
    • 'There could be wider benefits from registration in the workplace, which Ministers may wish to consider, such as trying to define 'a worker' and 'an employee.''
    Mr Prisk said the Bill would create certainty for the UK's four million self-employed workers, including IT workers, all of whom he said 'act as the backbone of the country's economy.'

    The proposed Bill has gained support from: Brian Cotter, Liberal Democrat MP for Weston-Super-Mare, Kerry Pollard, Labour MP for St Albans and the Chairman and both Vice-Chairmen of the all-party small business group.

    Mr Prisk told the House: "The self-employed are vital to our economy both nationally and locally, numbering in excess of four million people, including freelances working in the media, information technology and the creative industries. Together, those four million people are leading creators of this country's wealth.

    "Because the nature of work is changing, self-employment is becoming an increasingly popular option. The days of working from nine to five are gone, and the impact of technology means that when and where we work is constantly changing. Self-employment has the flexibility to respond to those changes, which is why it is increasingly the first option for many people at work."

    Mr Prisk said the full potential of the self-employed was not being realised in the UK, saying they continue to be discriminated against, with the root of the negative attitude towards them laying in the status of 'self-employment.'

    He concluded: "The onus lies with an individual wishing to become self-employed to prove his status. That is not, as it may seem, a simple process, because the regulations are based not on consistently applied criteria but on ever-changing case law. Many self-employed people have to prove and re-prove their status every year. Indeed, some have to do so for each contract.

    "We need to move away from a confusing, unfair and adversarial approach and towards giving people the right to choose how they work and the freedom and responsibility of that choice. The purpose of the Bill is to provide that right. It would not solve all of the problems in the relationship between Government and the self-employed. However, it represents a vital first step in overhauling how we treat the self-employed."

    Richard Powell, Shout99

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