How contractors can make Brexit work

The vote to leave the European Union was a huge political shock to the country. Pundits, betting firms and many politicians were sure voters would opt to Remain. When the votes were tallied and it became clear that Britain had decided to leave, the reaction was one of complete amazement.

For contractors, a vote to leave has left them in a state of insecurity. Much of the future is unclear, particularly decisions over immigration and the freedom of movement.

What are the concerns?

Freedom of movement is only one part of the anxiety weighing heavy on the minds of contractors. Employment Law promises pitfalls too, particularly for those “gig workers” who worry about whether they will retain statutory workers’ rights. A review is already underway. Spearheaded by Matthew Taylor, the Head of the Royal Society of Arts, it focuses on the needs and concerns of flexible workers.

As soon as the UK officially leaves the EU in 2019, it will have developed its own set of employment rules surrounding flexible workers and the gig economy. General employment law is mostly based on existing EU law, and this is highly unlikely to change. If Britain chooses to remain part of the European Economic Area it is guaranteed to stay the same.

An increased need for flexible workers?

It’s estimated that 15% of the UK workforce is self-employed, and according to The Guardian, this is the highest level of self-employment since records began. Despite what many think, Brexit may see an increase in the numbers of self-employed, especially contractors.

Due to wider uncertainty in the face of an impending Brexit, the short-term hiring decision of companies is they will avoid hiring permanent workers, and instead opt for flexible contractors to meet their needs and goals.

Could IR35 be reworked or scrapped?

Yes, it’s indeed a possibility that the dreadful IR35 reforms could be scrapped, or at least reworked, by 2019. This is because the government will need to make the UK a lot more robust, able to cope with being outside of the EU.

On this subject Contractor Calculator writes:

“Experts have noted that this has come at the worst possible time for the economy, with flexible labour considered to be vital in helping to guarantee a swift economic post-Brexit recovery.”

This could mean more jobs for contractors

Post 2019, the government will have the opportunity to put more effort and invest more money into fledgling businesses, such as importers and exporters. As John Longworth writes in The Guardian:

“Our new freedom and EU contribution monies mean the government, at last, has the mandate and the resources to support our small and medium-sized exporters, and not be transfixed by the often protectionist multinationals.”

These new and growing import and export businesses are going to need accountants, IT professionals et al, which broadens the opportunities for contractors.

As we fast approach 2019, this is the time when contractors should start making their voices heard, so the government knows that contractors will not be sidelined. It’s also the time to seek out those new opportunities that might result as we leave the European Union.

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