The month long Party Conference season gives the hundreds of pressure groups and activists a chance to ply their wares in a hot spot of politicos.
Last week, freelancer group, the PCG, joined forces with political think-tank, Demos and the agency Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), to host a fringe meeting at the LibDems which focussed on the change in the UK’s labour market in recent years.
The event looked at this change within the labour market in the last 10 years with a significant rise in self-employment and freelancing and a particular focus on how the rise of independent working affects women.
Leading the discussion was a panel of experts led by Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs and Women and Equalities Minister. Alongside her was Simon McVicker, PCG’s Director of Policy and Public Affairs; Tom Hadley from the REC and Nora Senior from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). The chair of the event was Jodie Ginsberg from Demos.
Simon McVicker started the discussion by highlighting that in 2011, 38 per cnet of the UK’s 1.56 million freelancers were women before stressing the value as a hugely positive career choice, allowing those women to be flexible in balancing work and family commitments. Simon added in 2011, there were an estimated 210,000 freelance working mothers in the UK - 13 per cent of all freelancers. The number of freelance working mothers has increased 25 per cent since 2008, double the rate of increase in the freelance workforce as a whole.
Simon McVicker said: “Policymakers across Europe, not just in the UK, need to wake up and recognise the benefits of freelancing and flexible working.
“Politically, with a General Election two years away and following the recent BIS Select Committee report ‘Women in the Workplace’, the political and media agenda is highlighting employment issues affecting women on a daily basis. Women in freelancing are a key part of this agenda that cannot be ignored.”
PCG’s recent benchmarking survey also shows female freelancers are happier than male freelancers, particularly because of the level of control they have over their work life. Though, as the panel discussed, there can still be barriers for women choosing to go freelance, such as equality in compensation packages, affordability of childcare and protection from discrimination.
Jo Swinson MP outlined some of the issues facing women in the labour market as a whole, and expressed her desire to see that the benefits of flexible working are recognised. She also touched on the issue of zero-hours contracts saying that these contracts should not be automatically demonised, although abuse must not be ignored.
Nora Senior of the BCC outlined the need for good infrastructure, such as high speed broadband, to support flexible working and freelancing. She argued this would have particular benefits for women who have to balance work and family life and need to work from home.
Tom Hadley from REC warned that the focus on the abuse of the system risks ‘muddying the waters’. Bad practice does not automatically mean all forms of flexible working are bad – instead, the UK should look to eliminate bad practice while at the same time encouraging and promoting all forms of flexible working including freelancing.
Labour Party Conference
There is a fringe meeting for freelancers and Small Businesses at the Labour Party this week: Labour Party fringe: An Enterprising Nation - Shout99, Sept 2013)
If you wish to comment on this article, please log in and use the Reply button below. Registering is free and easy - see 'Join Shout99'.
Susie Hughes © Shout99 2012