Tag Archive | "employment law"

How do you make the Invisible Man visible?

Now here’s an interesting question: if you wanted to hold up an example of a successful freelance, who would you pick? That might seem an odd sort of thing to do, but as part of the lead up to National Freelancers Day on November 23rd, the idea was floated that maybe an example of some top quality freelancers would be a good way to highlight what we are to the man in the street.

And that’s where it went a bit wrong.

Firstly, there is the general perception of what a freelance really is. We think of ourselves as independent workers who hire out our skills to the highest bidder: or at least, in these straitened times, a bidder that wants work doing for a half-decent rate. But the snag is, to our clients we are simply a slightly better class of temporary worker. And to the aforementioned man in the street, even those who work with us, we are something just a little bit odd. Neither group really understands the term “Freelancer”.

Of course, they know what one is. They have several high profile examples to work from. There’s Tony Blair, freelance envoy. Peter Mandelson, freelance business consultant with no business to speak of but able to buy £8m houses. Geoff Boycott, freelance broadcaster, suing for the half share in a 2 million pound house that he didn’t get back for free.

Hang on a minute. That’s not what we’re trying to say.

OK, so Plan B. Let’s use some examples of where freelancers have delivered serious pieces of work. Except that doesn’t really work either. I’ve worked on several major (and, let it be said, highly successful) programmes over the years, and in most cases the real delivery has been achieved by the hired help. Except that it’s not their names on the press release, that honour goes to the prime contractor, such as IBM or PwC.

The problem is that we don’t actually have a high enough profile that we can make the case that we routinely fulfill such a valuable role. And that’s how it should be; we are, after all, people who provide our skills for as long as they’re needed, then duck out and get on with the next job.

It’s a bit of a puzzle, isn’t it. We want the world to know just how good we are, except that in the areas where we can make enough of an impact to shout about it, we are actually invisible.

But in a world where we are constantly fighting to be recognized as pursuing a genuine career path that doesn’t involve working for some nameless corporate, where we can be refused work because a credit check turns up some trivial default payment from ten years ago, where we have a constant argument about which bits of employment law and related protections should apply to us (hint: none of them), being recognized for what we are is something of a necessity.

So all suggestions on how to make the Invisible Man visible will be gratefully received.

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: the invisible man? where? by badjonni

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Will accountants for contractors take on the Red Tape Challenge?

Since the coalition launched its Red Tape Challenge website, more than 6,000 responses have been received, according to government data.

Businesses and limited company contractors have been invited to submit their comments on current and forthcoming legislation to give the government an opportunity to adapt the regulations before they are implemented.

A lot of the published statements have called for changes in the retail environment and industry sector champion, Dr Kevin Hawkins, urges consumers, suppliers and trade associations to visit the site and express their concerns and solutions. He described the Red Tape Challenge website as a chance “too good to miss”.

He went on to say that this is the first time the government has given those at the sharp end of complex regulation the chance to be heard. This is a golden opportunity for business owners to tell politicians about the bureaucracy that wastes time and money and suggest ways to improve things for both themselves and their customers.

The business secretary, Vince Cable, says that unless ministers can come up with strong reasons why an item of unpopular regulation should remain, government departments will scrap it.

Amongst other legislation up for debate, the website contains 278 environment regulations, 264 concerning pensions and 151 that cover employment law.

The portal has already received concerns over the Care Quality Commission agency and health and safety guidance.

One man wrote that the CQC does not understand that dentists operate small businesses and do not have the staff to spend hours filling in forms and undertaking compliance audits. He went on to point out that too much reliance is put on box ticking exercises and the government doesn’t seem to appreciate that professional staff are regulated and are committed to providing the highest possible standards.

The owner of a small construction company recommended a rethink over the work time allowable for the use of steps and ladders.

However, not everybody is happy about this new government initiative. One lady asked why the public was being asked to contribute their views when MPs are paid to sort out these problems.

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: BCK – social tagging by pulguita

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Contractor accountants urged to enjoy life on May 12th

Accountants are being encouraged to take time out on May 12th to contemplate their work-life balance. The Chartered Accountants Benevolent Association is calling on all companies to promote this project to improve employees work – home life balance.

Kath Haines, the chief executive of CABA, said the Association wants accountants to move away from their desk for a period on May 12th and do something they enjoy doing. She went on to say that she would like to see all accountancy practices, regardless of size, and also those contractor accountants working in business, to take part in the initiative and spend some quality time with their colleagues, family and friends.

It’s not only accountants who are feeling the strain. Experts warn that stress at work is going to soar as survivors of redundancy programmes come to terms with unmanageable workloads and survivor guilt.

EmployEase, a firm of employment law consultants, said that a third of its individual clients are absent from work with stress related conditions. It warns employers to take action to avoid stress or run the risk of facing a tribunal for discrimination, personal injury or unfair dismissal.

The FSB and Mind have teamed up to produce a guide for small businesses to help them make non bureaucratic, cost effective changes that will have a positive impact on the wellbeing of their employees.

Amongst the recommendations in the document are the implementation of flexible working and the promotion of a supportive working environment.

Sophie Corlett, the director of external relations at Mind, pointed out that several small firms already provide employees with flexible working opportunities and quality working relationships. However, businesses must also acknowledge mental health issues and create a culture whereby staff can raise their concerns and employers will help them stay mentally healthy.

© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: 31/365 – Stress. by BLW Photography

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Are contractor accountants held back by employment legislation?

Contractor accountants should be aware that the government is planning to overhaul the UK’s employment laws in order to help the economic recovery.

One of the proposals, which has already provoked fury, is to allow firms to fire employees who are underperforming during their first two years of employment, without the threat of facing an unfair dismissal tribunal. Under the current regulations, an employee can seek redress from an employment tribunal if they are sacked after 12 months.

The coalition is also looking into the system of tribunals at present. Business groups, such as the BCC are urging for immediate reform but the TUC suggested that workers could be discouraged from seeking justice if major changes are implemented.

Union leaders are also concerned that increasing the qualifying period to two years could give a green light to unscrupulous employers to break the law.

The coalition is likely to launch a consultation into the future of tribunals after business groups complained that there was a 56% increase in the number of cases in 2010.

One possible solution would be to charge claimants a deposit of up to £500 which would be refunded if the case was successful. But the TUC argues that this will deter low-paid workers from seeking justice.

Meanwhile, Vince Cable, the business secretary, has been asked to look into whether small businesses could be exempted from some employment regulations but any such changes could see the government in hot water from the EU.

David Cameron wants to see new jobs created this year in order to boost the economic recovery and whilst large companies have promised to do exactly that, smaller firms need more encouragement. Reforming the employment tribunal system and reducing the red tape for small businesses could go a long way towards providing it said David Frost from the BCC.

© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Talking Logistics by Gamma-Ray Productions

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Was the budget good for small contractor accountants?

The FPB has expressed its approval of the business friendly emergency budget, saying that it contained various key victories for small businesses such as smaller contractor accountants.

The 1% reduction in small companies’ tax was a positive measure, as was the £5 million threshold for relief on capital gains tax (CGT) for entrepreneurs and limited company contractors.

The Forum thinks that the government demonstrated its appreciation of the issues relating to small businesses by extending the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme, continuing the tax breaks for holiday let properties and abolishing back-dated business rates.

The full budget document pledged to review recruitment and employment law and this was something the FPB had called on them to do. Forum members often cite employment regulations as a major area of concern so any measures to simply the law will be welcomed.

Phil Orford, the FPB chief executive, believes owners of small businesses would have been pleasantly surprised by the budget.

On the subject of the impending VAT rise, Orford said that although this will have an impact, he thinks the majority of Forum members would rather this outcome than an increase in other taxes or a further reduction in public spending.

The FPB will now be calling on the government to give a guarantee that it will provide genuine private sector input to help boost local economic growth, especially in those areas that will suffer from public sector job cuts.

© 2010 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

Image: Let it grow by James Jordan

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