With only 7 days (at the time of publishing) before the UK general election, interview “gaffes” by senior politicians and policy reversals have overshadowed many of the policies. What are the main parties’ policies for the self-employed and small businesses?
Here’s a quick guide to what’s in the parties’ manifestos.
The Conservative Party
In its election manifesto, the Conservative government says that it will continue to support small businesses through less regulation, low taxation and a simpler tax system.
It promises new rights and protection for the growing number of self-employed in the “gig economy” − work ranging from freelance delivery and driving for (e.g. for companies such as Deliveroo and Uber) to online coding and project work. The hours of these jobs are flexible and can be combined with other work.
These workers are officially classed as self-employed and therefore have fewer pension entitlements, reduced access to benefits, and no qualification for sick pay and holiday pay, the Conservative manifesto says. Yet the nature of their work is different from the traditional self-employed worker who might be a sole trader, a freelancer or running their own business, it also says.
Last October, the government commissioned Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, to review the changing labour market. The manifesto says that the party will await his final report but promises that a new Conservative government will act to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts, the self- employed and those people working in the “gig” economy are all properly protected.
• Reduce corporation tax to 17 per cent by 2020, from 19% now.
• Make the tax system simpler for self-employed people and small businesses.
• Review the business-rates system. Do rate revaluations more frequently.
The Labour Party
Self-employment can bring many benefits, freedoms and flexibilities to people and is a vital sector of our economy, the Labour election manifesto says.
But it also says that there is mounting evidence that workers are being forced into self-employment by unscrupulous employers to avoid costs and their duties to workers. A Labour government would restrict bogus self-employment by:
• Shifting the “burden of proof” so that the law assumes a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise.
• Punitive fines on employers for “not meeting their responsibilities”.
• Involving trade unions in enforcement, e.g. by giving them a seat on the executive board of the new Ministry of Labour, which will enforce workers’ rights.
• Ban payroll companies, sometimes known as umbrella companies, which “create a false structure to limit employers’ tax liabilities and limit workers’ rights”.
• Create a “commission” to modernise the law around employment status. New statutory definitions of employment status would reduce the need for litigation and improve compliance.
“We will protect small businesses by reintroducing the lower small profits rate of corporation tax. We will also exclude small businesses from costly plans to introduce quarterly reporting and take action on late payments.”
Their election manifesto promises to:
• Expand the state-owned British Business Bank to help alleviate the “shortage of equity capital for growing firms and providing long-term capital for medium-sized businesses”.
• Create a new “start-up allowance” to help those starting a new business with their living costs in the crucial first weeks of their business
• Support fast growing businesses seeking to scale up, through “mentoring support”.
• Review business rates to reduce burdens on small firms, and make them the priority for any future business tax cuts.
• Reform the Regulatory Policy Committee to remove unnecessary regulation, reduce regulatory uncertainty, and support new markets and investment, particularly in low-carbon and resource-efficient innovation.
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