Reveal gig economy workers' pay -- report

Companies in the ‘gig economy’ should be forced to disclose the average sum they pay to those working via their platforms, a think-tank recommends.

In fact, all businesses – in the gig economy or not – would be more transparent and fairer to self-employed workers if they published the hourly rates they pay, says SMF.

Short for the ‘Social Market Foundation,’ which says it is a non-partisan group, the SMF also wants a ‘self-employed benefits package’ to be designed by government and given to all freelancers.

The package should include contributory Job Seeker’s Allowance, sick leave insurance to those saving into a private pension scheme and Statutory Maternity Pay.

The latter (SMP) is already an issue that MPs have flagged up, as the equivalent for people who work for themselves is less. It will likely be addressed in the upcoming Taylor Review.

Freelancers will likely be more concerned about another of the foundation’s recommendations -- that a new indirect tax, a ‘Hirer’s NIC’, should be foisted on their clients.

Starting at 2% per annum but hiked each year until “parity is achieved with Employer NICs”, this new levy appears designed to hit firms which use freelancers purely for tax reasons.

In particular, it would “overcome the anomaly where organisations engaging self-employed workers are exempt from 13.8% rate of Employer NICs,” the SMF claimed.

Freelancers might worry that the levy could deter end-users from engaging them and other atypical workers, but the foundation implied firms would get behind it.

Nigel Keohane, SMF research director said: “Our proposed new rules make life fairer for the individual and the taxpayer, whilst providing greater certainty and simplicity to businesses.”

That simplicity may arise from firms no longer having to worry if workers they use will end up taking them to court over their status, as the courier, delivery and plumbing sectors have seen.

But equally likely to worry end-users, and potentially freelancers, is a further recommendation for HMRC to “make a virtue of visibility” when it comes to clamping down on rule-breakers.

“[The Revenue] should be “pursuing more cases of non-compliance, and publicising how many firms and individuals have been pursued successfully and the value of the money recovered,” the foundation said.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves welcomed all the think-tank’s recommendations, contained in a new report. “We must do more to tackle bogus self-employment”, she said, echoing party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s comments before the general election.

She added: “It’s vital that we prevent the rapidly growing number of self-employed workers from being exploited and help them get workplace benefits.”

However, freelancers group IPSE has previously told policy-makers that giving freelancers extra security in their work is not the way to win over the genuinely self-employed.


22nd June 2017

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