Business for Beginners
As the report states: “The rollcall will now be familiar to some readers: the self-employed have no access to Statutory Sick Pay should they fall ill, they have no right to Paternity or Adoption Pay should they become a new parent, they have no equivalent of an employer topping up their private pension, and the introduction of a National Living Wage has passed them by. Their income can also be characterised by periods of feast and famine as client demand changes – circumstances not helped by late payments.”
In the face of the ignorance that government continues to display – only mentioning the legions of self-employed when taxation questions raise their heads — new alternative forms of support have been developed:
A London-based language co-operative run by and for self-employed language professionals (interpreters, translators and language teachers). RICOL markets the services of its members and connects them to clients, but at a fraction of the cost of a typical agency.
Swindon Music Cooperative
A group of independent music teachers who have clubbed together to pool the costs of marketing, administration and debt collection. It also coordinates peer-to-peer learning among teachers and arranges professional development training.
Outlandish and CoTech
Outlandish is a worker coop where tech developers pool all their assets into one organization, with each person’s pay set according to their experiences and needs (to a maximum pay differential of 1:3).” CoTech is a collective of coops’ that allows tech coops like Outlandish to share staff time.
IndyCube and Community Union
Community Union has teamed up with IndyCube co-working space network to give their self-employed members access to a package of affordable invoice factoring and legal advice services.
East End Trades Guild
A community of small, independent businesses in East London that use community organising methods to hold the government and local landlords to account. Wins include protecting tenants from eviction and controlling rent increases.
These innovations are a start and illustrate that there is a clear need for more high profile – and well-funded – services that the micro business community can draw upon. I have critical illness cover and life insurance, but these are expensive – particularly the former. A full-range of risk management financial product would be ideal, but I’m not holding my breath for these to appear on the open commercial market, or anything back by the government.
“With our political institutions gripped in turmoil, now more than ever workers need to look to themselves for a helping hand. It will take a Herculean effort of will and imagination for self-organising to go from the margins to the mainstream, but it is right to be ambitious. What’s to stop us from realising a future where co-operative membership is the norm for business owners, where there is a collective sick pay fund in every town, and where user-own platform cooperatives give gig workers a stake in the on-demand industry they toil for.”
With FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry concluding: “It is heartening to hear of, and see, collaborative and enterprising initiatives like these cropping up in the UK. However, the stark reality is, the Government has not been quick enough to recognise the ‘sea-change’ towards self-employment and many are being left behind. The self-employed have fewer rights and fundamentally take on far more risk than employees.
“For example, when they fall ill they lack access to critical benefits such as sick pay that many employees take for granted. The government needs to do more to actively support the self-employed including introducing changes that would break down the regulatory barriers to self-organising arrangements. This will help reduce the risk for many self-employed and giving them the peace of mind that employees have when faced with hardship in their life.”
Co-operatives, friendly societies and credit unions have always existed, but they do seem an ideal vehicle to support the growing numbers of micro business owners that need their services, but services re-shaped for 21st Century small businesses. As always, the independent drive all micro business owners feel is willing new services into existence.