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Freelances get a short-term wage boost amid Brexit uncertainty, but warn of long-term confidence issues.
The freelance sector experienced a boost in earnings in the last quarter of 2018 despite the lowest confidence in the UK economy on record, according to a new report.
The Confidence Index report from IPSE (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) and People Per Hour is based on the responses of more than 600 freelancers from across the UK. It found that overall confidence in the performance of the UK economy over the next 12 months has fallen to the lowest level since the index began. Confidence over the first quarter of 2019 also dropped to the second-lowest level on record. When asked why, freelancers said the two factors doing most to lower business performance (and probably therefore also confidence) are Brexit and government taxation.
However, despite extreme anxiety about the economy, freelancers’ average day rates rose by 21 per cent, and their average quarterly earnings rose to £24,776 – the highest level since quarter three of 2017. More than half (54%) of freelancers expect their rates to increase further over the coming year.
The report argues that one possible explanation may be suggested by a recent Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) report. The REC suggested there is a “talent gap” in the labour market because, amid uncertainty about Brexit, businesses are increasingly reluctant to make permanent placements. This has helped drive up pay, and based on IPSE’s survey, may also be driving up freelancer day rates.
IPSE’s Head of Research, Education and Training Suneeta Johal said: “News that freelancers’ pay is up – and by a remarkable 21 per cent – is obviously very welcome. But there is a stark warning here too.
“Freelancers’ confidence in the wider economy is down to the lowest level on record because of Brexit and the political turbulence of the last two years.
“The UK’s freelancers may, in the short-term, be benefitting from the pay bump caused by Brexit uncertainty, but in the long-term, ongoing political and economic turbulence can only do them harm. In fact, our Confidence Index shows that freelancers’ confidence in their businesses over the next 12 months has fallen to the lowest level since 2017.
“For freelancers, all this is also exacerbated by the knowledge the government is going to push the disastrous changes to IR35 tax legislation through to the private sector.”
Johal called on the government to scrap the IR35 changes which put the onus on businesses who contract freelances to determine their employment status and to take no deal off the table to provide more security and stability for business.