While the qualifications and skills you acquired at university may appear to point towards entering a full-time job structure, it is well worth exploring more progressive options for configuring your working life. What might your days look like as an individual contractor in your chosen field?
The Good Work Plan contains legislation that will make it easier to access the pay and benefits you are entitled to, including changes to the stability of contracts, sick pay calculations and allowed holiday time. Being aware of how national employment policies affect your career movements will equip you to thrive.
As an English graduate with over 8 years’ freelance writing experience, I have found myself reflecting on the challenges and benefits of the self-employed career path, ahead of the new Government policies coming into effect in April 2020.
The increasing popularity of independent work
If you are considering self-employment and its attendant benefits, you are in great company. Over 2 million UK professionals currently work as independent contractors. The industries with the highest proportion of freelance workers include consulting, healthcare, education, publishing, advertising, and tech.
A shift towards more flexible, technology-based modes of working complements the increased popularity of self-employment; businesses of all kinds are increasingly hiring freelancers, pulling in talent from all over the world to work digitally on particular projects. This is called agile working. As a result, freelance careers are becoming ever more appealing and feasible for more and more graduates
The advantages of freelancing, part-time and remote working span as far as your travel plans and as wide as your creative mindset, but being an off-payroll employee comes with its disadvantages too. These are particularly apparent when you find discrepancies in your responsibilities, proportional holiday allowance, and payment plan compared to regular employees. It is important to know your rights as an off-payroll employee for the best chance of a fair deal.
Freelance and fancy-free? Not quite
Most advice to graduates transitioning from university and adjusting to working life relates to passing into traditional full-time employment — like establishing a Monday to Friday routine and building relationships with new colleagues. If you are thinking of opting for a freelance career instead, however, the challenges you face will be somewhat different.
If you are considering self-employment to hang onto the freedoms of your university lifestyle, think again. To budget your time and coordinate your finances, the greatest possible dedication and precision is required. Before choosing self-employment, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with the key differences between the logistics of self-employment and being a regular employee. Understanding what current policies mean for you will enable you to secure yourself the best possible package wherever you work.
Working on your terms: what does “freelance” mean?
The term 'freelance' does not actually have any legal meaning. As such, it is possible for a freelancer to be an employee, a 'worker' or a self-employed contractor. If you are working with several different organisations, you might find that the ways that your pay, benefits, and rights are organised differ between them. The Good Work Plan will make it easier than it has ever been before to juggle jobs, ensuring that you are remunerated fairly and supported fully.
Getting the best deal: a self-employment rights checklist
Despite the extra challenges involved in organising your working life, there is no need to be daunted. Being aware of where you stand — particularly with regard to the Good Work Plan’s updates to employment law — will equip you to get the best out of self-employment. As of April 2020, as an off-payroll employee, you are entitled to:
A written statement of terms. On the first day of any professional endeavour, your employer should provide written guidelines, setting out the details of the working relationship in full. This will be a full contract, containing details including training entitlement, provisions for annual leave and the role’s responsibilities. This will help remove the scope for the uncertainties so often associated with off-payroll employment, which has historically resulted in freelancers missing out on the privileges and benefits enjoyed by regular employees.
A more stable contract. You will have the right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks. This may, for example, detail minimum hours, or specify particular working days. If you were on a zero-hours contract, this can help you ensure you are guaranteed working time.
Your tips. The new legislation protects your right to keep your tips, rather than these being funnelled back into the revenue of the business you work for.
Booking your holidays. A new holiday entitlement calculator will be launched, in step with a campaign to ensure that all individuals understand their rights with regard to annual leave. The reference period used to calculate holiday pay will be extended to 52 weeks from 12 weeks, making variable holiday allowances — that depend on how much you worked in the past three months — a thing of the past.
Bigger breaks within your period of continuous service. The interval of time constituting a break in continuous service will be extended from one to four weeks. If you are employed on an irregular basis, you will now qualify for certain employment rights which you would previously have been ineligible for, such as maternity pay and protection against unfair dismissal.
A voice in company decisions. Where once off-payroll employees were treated as less relevant within businesses, you will now officially be allowed input into certain workplace discussions as an independent contractor; for example, regarding redundancy proposals. Find out how to register your opinions when you have thoughts to share.
Prepare for success
To experience self-employment at its best, you simply need to familiarise yourself with these policies and relate them to your chosen role. Setting up your freelance working relationships well will empower you to access the support and perks to which you are entitled; a recipe for success.
Rosalind Stone is a digital content writer, currently directing her passion for wordcraft towards raising awareness of the Loch Associates Group in Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and London – employment specialists working across various disciplines including employment law, HR consultancy and health and wellbeing.