Media Release

Self-employed exposed to greater risks for fewer benefits

Responding to the TUC report into international trends in insecure work, Nigel Keohane, director of research at the Social Market Foundation, commented:

“This research highlights yet again that self-employment has torn a hole in the welfare safety net, and that hole is only getting bigger as the number of self-employed workers increases.

“Our research has shown that almost half of the self-employed were paid less than the equivalent of the National Living Wage in 2016.

“They cannot access the genuine benefits of self-employment, yet access no upsides of employment, such as sick pay, access to training, or pensions.”

Compared to employees, the self-employed are exposed to much greater risks and receive far fewer benefits:

  • Self-employed workers are half as likely as employees to receive training.
  • Self-employed workers are much less likely to take days off sick than employees
  • Self-employed workers are less likely to be paid for overtime than employees: 71% of self-employed who work overtime do so unpaid.
  • Self-employed workers are less likely to be saving money from their earnings: 11 percentage point gap between self-employed and employees
  • Almost half (45%) of the self-employed were paid below the equivalent of the National Living Wage (£7.50) in 2016
  • A significant minority of the self-employed don’t have the autonomy that should accompany being self-employed. It is often assumed that self-employed experience higher levels of autonomy at work as part of the trade-off for being self-employed. While this is true for many, one in five self-employed do not report a lot of autonomy over their job tasks, and one in three do not report a lot of autonomy over working hours.



Relevant research from the SMF:

The SMF paper, The employment divide: is it possible to simplify the distinction between self-employment and employment? draws on a range of data sources, including tax data from HM Revenue and Customs, the Labour Force Survey and the Understanding Society dataset. It was published in November 2016 and can be read here. The press release from that report can be read here.

  • This paper is part of a broader programme of work which the SMF is undertaking, looking into the position of self-employed workers in the labour market. This research is kindly supported by PRISM. The Social Market Foundation retains full editorial control over all of its outputs.

About the Social Market Foundation:

The Social Market Foundation (SMF) is an independent, non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets. The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this.

  • Interviews/media enquiries:
  • For interviews with SMF experts, please contact SMF communications manager Mercedes Broadbent on // 07425 609 148
  • For more details about the SMF, please contact SMF communications director David Mills on


Related items:

Page 1 of 1