Self-employment. Independence or exploitation?

Gizza Proper Job

If you're self-employed, you're one of millions in the UK. But how many of those millions are really benefiting from the chance to be their own boss? It's supposed to be straightforward – if you run your own business, price your own jobs and provide your own equipment and materials, then you're self-employed. If someone else decides what you do, and how much you will be paid, then you're a worker.

As well as having no job security, if you're self-employed then you're not entitled to the Minimum Wage, and you don't qualify for rights such as holiday pay, sick pay, redundancy rights or employee pension benefits. Many people are happy to be self-employed. The 'payoff' is meant to be the chance to take control of your work – choosing what you do and what you will be paid for it. And there's a general assumption that freelancers or subcontractors will get paid more, to make up for the lack of benefits.

But by defining workers as self-employed, bosses can duck out of a whole range of responsibilities, including paying their fair share of taxes. The Daily Mirror has found evidence that some unscrupulous companies, from call centres, cab companies to cleaners, are defining their workers as self-employed in order to get away with spending less. Says TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber:

"There are real fears that the record levels of self-employment today are being fuelled by workers who are thrown out of permanent jobs and having to take up bogus self-employed work instead. "It is extremely worrying that full-time employee jobs are increasingly being replaced with low-paid self-employed positions that are not secure."