The employment divide: is it possible to simplify the distinction between self-employment and employment?

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Publication date

November 15, 2016


This paper looks at way to close the divide between employment and self-employment. SUMMARY: 1) The distinction between self-employment and employment is becoming harder to sustain. Even on 2012/13 tax data from HMRC, a third of those reporting income from self-employment also report income from employment. 2) Those two categories themselves simplify and often distort a much more complex labour market in which people are working and being paid in a range of different ways, including limited company contractors and workers employed through an umbrella company. 3) The challenge this variation poses is that our tax system and the rights and protections offered through employment law may no longer fit the reality of the labour market. 4) At the very least, people may look and behave very much like employees and yet lack the rights and protections of employees. 5) Equally, they may in fact be self-employed – without a single employer responsible for giving them tasks or paying them – and yet fail to benefit from the tax treatment of other self-employed people. 6) The aim of our project is to examine how widespread these mismatches are, what issues they raise, and how they might be tackled.





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