Back to the future with attacks on self-employment

Back to the future with attacks on self-employment

21st September 2023 | Hudson Contract

Self-employment under attack as union leaders and HMRC target use of CIS.

Union leaders have claimed “a shock rise in bogus self-employment” in construction. Unison said the number of people paid under CIS increased by 15 per cent last year to 1.2 million. The union added “a very large percentage of the workers operating under CIS are bogusly self-employed” but declined to offer any evidence.

Commenting on the claims, Ian Anfield, managing director of Hudson Contract, said: “With a general election around the corner, union leaders are flexing their muscles to get employment legislation onto the Labour manifesto, and it looks like the party is listening.

“Deputy leader Angela Rayner appeared at the Trade Union Congress last week and gave what she called ‘a cast iron commitment’ to bring in new legislation within 100 days of taking office if they win the next general election.

“It’s back to the future with self-employment under attack and employment rights that will squeeze employers until the pips squeak. The last Labour government proposed ‘deeming’ provisions which identified all self-employed as employees for tax purposes. It was only prevented because of a successful lobbying campaign led by Hudson Contract with major housebuilders and specialist subcontractors.

“Now it seems unions are starting to turn the screw again, and it will be interesting to see if Kier Starmer’s claims to be ‘pro-business’ and the comments he has made about the UK needing a flexible labour market can stand up to the demands of his union paymasters.

"If Labour really wants to do the right thing by businesses and people they employ, it should make employing people easier, and clear the employment tribunals of bogus claims. Latest figures show a five per cent rise in employment tribunal receipts over the last quarter and we know that many of those cases will have no merit and will be kicked out or dropped, but not before causing stress, expense and disruption to good employers.”

Mr Anfield added: “Tribunals are on the rise as the labour market tightens up and people resort to desperate measures to bring in extra money. Construction firms face the grim prospect of more and more self-employed people chancing their arms and making claims despite the fact they were not employed.

“Firms are approaching us with complex tribunal claims and HMRC status enquiries at a rate we have not seen in 20 years. In one recent HMRC case, we helped a roofing contractor see off an unjustified status demand for £300,000. And in a bogus employment claim, we helped a client after an operative caused an accident that injured himself and a colleague and then tried to claim £70,000 as a whistleblower raising health and safety concerns after he was kicked off the site.

“A storm is brewing and if Labour wins the next general election, it looks like companies will need to run for the hurricane shelter.”