Will the self-employed finally get the support they need?

On National Freelance Day last week came two great pieces of news. Firstly, the Government has appointed David Morris MP as the first self-employed ambassador, a long overdue appointment for the growing numbers of independent workers.

The second was the announcement that the Conservatives are considering introducing maternity pay for self-employed mothers to support the record number of freelance workers. It’s a real breakthrough in how freelance workers or what we call ‘self-drive workers’ are viewed and recognises the growing band of women who have chosen to work for themselves. Matthew Hancock, the minister for business, enterprise and energy, said that the party was drawing up policies for its pre-election manifesto to make it easier for self-starters to prosper.

There has been a shift away in recent years from full-time payroll working into “self-drive workers’ which has up to now not been aligned to Government or EU thinking, policy making and legislation, which is all geared to getting workers onto payrolls, full protected and fully taxed.

It’s therefore positive news that the Government is starting to see independent and interim workers as a real and tangible pot of skilled people that deserve supporting.

There are over five million people in Britain who are self-employed and one of the boom areas of interim working is interim management. Figures from Russam GMS’s latest snapshot survey show a 6.5% rise in demand for interims from UK businesses in the 12 months from June 2013 to June 2014.

Over half of all interims (54%) are hired for their specialist skills; 45% to design and implement new strategies, 39% for projects, and 32% to restructure businesses. There was also growth in the number of assignments led by part-time interim managers, who now represent 31% of the market.

The number of females choosing this career path is increasing. The latest Ipsos Mori quarterly survey of interim providers by the Interim Management Association (IMA) shows the number of female interim executives has increased to 35 per cent in Q2 2014.

Interim management offers females the opportunity to work more flexibly and many are making lifestyle choices to work independently. At the same time more companies are choosing to employ senior business people on an interim basis because it is a cost-effective and flexible resource.

Practical government support such as introducing maternity pay is a big step forward in recognising the growth in self-drive workers, and the demand from businesses for this vital resource, and we hope that after the election it becomes a reality.

*Melissa Baxter is Director at Russam GMS.

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