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Freelancers builders and the value they create: Spreading the word

David Jackson | 15th October 2013

As regular readers of this blog are aware, it has long been my view that Hudson Contract has a role to play in helping politicians understand – and appreciate – the value of freelance builders to the construction industry in particular, and the UK economy in general.

And on behalf of our 2,200 clients who use freelance builders to meet their contract demands, I am pleased to report two significant steps in the right direction this month.

Step One: During the Labour Party Conference, an event to discuss the role of freelancers was held by the Finance & Industry Group/Small Business Forum. Cranfield University’s Professor Andrew Burke was a guest speaker and he presented his research, some of which Hudson Contract helped to produce, demonstrating: “Freelancers help businesses to manage risk and grow.” Professor Burke’s current research indicates that up to 17% of the workforce is freelance, and that there is still a need to legitimise the freelancers role.

Toby Perkins Labour’s Shadow Small Business Minister pointed out that the specialisation of labour in the construction industry is due to the high cost of labour downtime and this often precludes the use of employees for short-term specialist & sporadic work. (i.e. the same point that is made in the Hudson reports.)

Step Two: I visited three senior members of the Labour Market Directorate at the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, as a follow-up to a meeting earlier this year at which Professor Burke showcased his research into the role of the freelance builder.

I conveyed the view that whilst the Department for Business can see employers, employees and entrepreneurs, it doesn’t see freelancers in the same favourable light.

I highlighted their value not only to the construction industry but also to the economy. I also explained that the vast majority choose to freelance to maximise their earnings in accordance with their own skills and sense of organisation.

Importantly, they should be seen as legitimate tax payers, as the CIS deduction at source prevents tax dodging.

Comparing freelance consultants, physicians and technicians, taxed under IR35, to freelance tradesmen providing their skills and tools in the construction workplace, I stressed the importance of seeing the contributions they make to business and the economy, in the same positive light. Paid for their high-quality specialist outputs, free to make their own way in this world and not a burden on the state.

My parting message to the Directorate: “View freelancers for the value they add, and let them enable businesses to grow.”

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