Rise in number of self-employed in UK raises call for AE amendments

The number of self-employed workers has increased by 17 per cent since the introduction of auto-enrolment, leading to further calls for the government to amend AE legislation

The number of self-employed workers in the UK has increased by 17 per cent to 5 million since the introduction of auto-enrolment (AE), according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), leading to further calls for the government to amend AE legislation.

As self-employed workers are not required to be auto-enrolled into a workplace pension scheme, this could mean that hundreds of thousands of individuals are not saving towards their retirement.

Quilter head of retirement policy, Jon Greer, called on the government to consider changing the law to help the self-employed build a pension.

He said that the Conservative government pledged to address this issue in its 2017 manifesto and it’s crucial that it still does re-assess the way AE rules fit around the new profile of the labour market and keep up with the changing nature of employment. The workforce is changing, with more people moving into flexible, part-time work and self-employment. Policy needs to keep up with the gig-economy, part-timers, side-hustlers and slashies.

Greer also explained that, if the government fails to address the issues with AE, then women and young people will be disproportionally affected. He continued, while the employment rate for women is the highest on record, and the number of women working full-time is steadily growing, still over 40 per cent of women in employment are part-time and are therefore more likely to be under the earnings thresholds for AE.

Likewise, younger people are more likely to be in flexible work with multiple employers or some self-employment and they are equally likely to fall through the gaps in the system, such as the minimum earnings criteria.

The ONS figures also revealed that older workers played a significant part in the overall rise in employment.

Analysis from Aviva found that the over-50s had driven 90 per cent of the employment growth over the past year, with 319,000 of the 354,000 additional workers being over 50-years-old.

Aviva head of savings and retirement, Alistair McQueen said that working lives are changing, fast. A record number of people are working deep into their later lives. Today, there are 1.33 million people working beyond the age of 65 – more than ever before.

Many are choosing to work longer. Many others are having to work longer to fund longer life in retirement. Forward-thinking employers will respond to this changing world, and they will be rewarded for doing so, securing and retaining the best of this booming population.

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