Freelancing – a Den of Inequality and Exploitation?

So, you may have noticed that we’ve not written much about the new intern these past few weeks here at UCHQ. She’s still here, leaving on the dot of 5 o’clock and pretending to research things on her phone (coincidentally, we’re not on Instagram, where we spot her frequently browsing). Despite the fact that besides making a passable cup of tea (after extensive training), we’re not quite sure what she does, we are growing used to her being around (although we could do without the endless puns about umbrellas and her singing Rhianna songs way too early in the mornings).

But while we still believe that the young don’t know they are born and have it far too easy, we do have a shred of sympathy for her generation. Not necessarily her, in her well-paid internship, with a wonderful boss (say no more) and a fun learning environment (and I’m not just talking about the Friday afternoon office chair races) – but, for young people who choose to take the route of the self-employed, things are sometimes far from rosy.

With over 2 million freelancers here in the UK, of course, a lot of young people see working for themselves as a route to doing not a lot for a lot of money, but of course, that isn’t the reality.

When it comes to the realities of everyday business administration, kids these days aren’t taught how to pay taxes and budget plan and keep accounts, so often they find themselves in a sticky situation with the taxman, or simply unaware of the tax breaks they can enjoy as one of the ranks of the self-employed. Let’s face it, filling out a tax return never gets easier for any of us. And let’s not get into how often the young in particular are exploited, either seeing their payments turn up depressingly late after repeatedly having to chase them or, in some cases, not at all.

And that is before we factor in the fact that the gender pay gap also applies to freelancers – and, when it comes to women, it is even greater than the gap that exists in paid employment. In the UK, it’s somewhere around 32% for freelance women workers, compared to around 17% for those employed in regular jobs.

While we can’t alone change the pay gap or exploitation that exists, for those starting out, an umbrella company could at least remove some of the headaches that young people just starting out will inevitably face. Let’s face it, the young especially would outsource anything they don’t find fun, but in the case of using an umbrella company to help chase payments and manage tax and admin, it may just be a decision that would pay dividends (or at least offset costs).

Here at UCHQ, we ensure that men and women are paid the same at every level of employment. Not that our beloved intern would believe it. She already thinks she’s deserving of the same salary as the CEO of the world’s biggest umbrella manufacturer. Boy, does she still have a lot to learn.

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