Last week, I met with Hudson Contract’s freelance editor. She is the person who ensures our various pieces of literature – including eNews – make for an easy read and she has been working for Hudson Contract for seven years.
I was briefing her about HMRC’s imminent crackdown on self-employment in construction and towards the end of our conversation, she turned to me and said: “So the new rules will mean a vast number of freelance builders are forced to go onto PAYE. But essentially, they are every bit as self-employed as I am. Which is to say they can pick and choose the jobs they do. They take time off whenever they want to – as I do whenever the World Cup is on! – and they work without supervision. That’s just wrong.
“Why should freelance builders be treated any differently from someone like me? For many of us, freelancing is a way of life. The fact is, I’d make a poor employee, because I enjoy being my own boss. Furthermore, the harder I work and the more hours I put in, the more I can earn. The same mentality applies to self-employed friends who are accountants, hairdressers, graphic designers and even barristers.”
I asked our editor how she would respond if I told her that if she wanted to continue to work for Hudson Contract, that from now on, she would be treated as though she were an employee in terms of tax and national insurance. “It could go one of two ways,” she told me. “I wouldn’t be prepared to work for less than I do now, so the cost to you would be significantly higher. Or I’d think to myself this is all far too complicated. And find myself a new client in a different sector, to take up the slack.” A smile and a shrug to showed me she was only half-joking.
“Obviously I know from my work for Hudson Contract that bogus self-employment is an issue in construction. But to single out one part of the legitimately self-employed workforce for prejudicial treatment surely goes against a basic freedom to choose how and when you work.
“Equally, as someone who runs my own microbusiness, I understand that building firms need to stay flexible to meet the ebbs and flows in their workloads. The new rules will deprive them of the ability to keep costs down when times are hard – and to staff up quickly when they land a big project. It sounds like a lose-lose to me. And not what I would have hoped for from this Government.”