In response to today’s Queen’s Speech Tania Bowers, General Counsel at The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) has highlighted the lack of any commitment from the government to reviewing IR35 and self-employment.
“In the run up to the election, speaking on BBC Radio 4, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, suggested that his party would conduct a review into the introduction of new off-payroll rules in the public sector. No firm commitment has materialised as yet,” she said. “On behalf of our members, we are calling for a rethink to incoming changes, which we believe should, at the very least, be delayed pending a further impact review and completion of an assessment on employment status. The Government maintains that it wants Britain to be ‘the best country in the world to do business’ – but restricting contractors isn’t the way to achieve this.”
Bowers also raised questions about the measures suggested around the gig economy: “While it was confirmed that measures will be brought forward to encourage gig workers to request a “more predictable contract”, our members are keen to understand whether this right will be extended to non-permanent agency workers, who by their nature are flexible.”
Elements of the speech were welcomed: “Our members will be encouraged by the new Government’s commitment to clamp down on late payments and a pledge to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner. Many will also welcome the announcements that ministers will bring forward measures to ensure that ‘every part of the United Kingdom can prosper’, and that the Government will prioritise investment in infrastructure and world-leading science research and skills, in order to ‘unleash’ UK productivity.”
Finally Bowers said APSCo welcomed the introduction of a National Skills Fund: “However, while a commitment to ‘growing our own’ talent will help to mitigate against talent gaps in the future, in the interim access to skilled professionals from Europe and beyond must be maintained,” she said. “While today’s speech underlined a commitment to a ‘modern, fair, points-based immigration system’, Tier 2 Visas will continue to require a job offer. APSCo maintains that there must be a dedicated visa route as part of the future skills-based immigration system, through which highly skilled contractors from overseas can come to the UK and support British businesses. The abolition of the previous cap on numbers under the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visas coupled with a new fast-track immigration scheme for top scientists and researchers, however, should help alleviate skills shortages in some of the most talent-short sectors.”
Simon McVicker, director of policy at IPSE also thought there was positive news for the self-employed and contractors, not least through the powers on offer to clamp down on late payment. In fact, it was a key demand in our #5millionvotes manifesto.
“We are also delighted to see the government forging ahead with the plan to bring gigabit broadband to the entire country,” he said. “A strong internet connection is one of the vital tools to allow freelancers to build their businesses and thrive in the modern economy.”
But noted McVicker: “In all this good news, however, there was one vital thing missing: IR35. During the election, Chancellor Sajid Javid pledged that the Conservative Party would review the disastrous changes to IR35 due to come into the private sector in April.
“If this government is to truly make Britain a place where ‘entrepreneurs know they can build on their ideas and find success’, it must keep its promise and also halt these hugely damaging changes while a full review is carried out. It has a golden opportunity to support and drive forward the vital self-employed sector, but it must first protect it from a dangerous mistake.”