For our independent practitioners

By David D'Souza, Membership Director at the CIPD.

About 1 in 10 of our members at the CIPD are independent practitioners. That means we have around 15,000 members who are working outside of organisations doing a range of things – from providing technical employment expertise through to learning and development design and delivery. If there is a need for expertise in people, then our membership will be involved in delivering that in some way. Our Board contains independent practitioners, our Council and branches rely on their support and energy and our online communities benefit from their time and expertise.  

When the extent of the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic became clear we encouraged the government, through a range of channels, to minimise the impact on people’s income. The first wave of support the government gave was to businesses and their employees – both at SME and traditional corporate level. At that point we called upon the government to recognise the importance of the self-employed and whilst steps were taken at considerable cost in that area we recognise that, depending on how an individual has structured their tax contributions, there are some people that have been left with significantly reduced incomes and a significantly reduced safety net compared to other people.  We specifically asked organisations in a recent survey as to how recent events will impact their appetite for using consultants and, of those companies that normally do make use of their skills, 80% of them said they would be reducing usage. I’ve spoken to many individuals across the profession whose work has rapidly fallen away. We will continue to work through the channels available to us to influence the government to address this gap in provision and support for people – and our members - in this most challenging of times. 

In addition we are examining what more we can do as a professional body in terms of support. We already have strong communities and I would urge you to make use of them for networking and support, but we will also be working on other solutions. Perhaps most importantly, as I mentioned previously, we will continue to work alongside other groups to attempt to get a better solution implemented by the government at policy level.  

Our independent practitioners are some of the best and brightest in the profession so as a final thought I’d like to invite you to celebrate their work and contribution through our new #HRtogether campaign being run in conjunction with People ManagementWe are inviting nominations for the #HRtogether campaign via TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook. A selection of the stories will be showcased in the May issue of People Management magazine. 

To help supporting organisations to manage their workforces responsibly and effectively during these difficult times, the CIPD’s employment experts are updating the CIPD Coronavirus hub on a daily basis. The hub’s free resources include employment law FAQs, tips for managing remote teams and useful templates for writing plans, policies and letters to employees. 

CIPD members also have free access to a 24/7 employment law helpline and have been supporting each other through the CIPD’s online community. 

Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.

  • Good people will always survive and come back.  I remember the '73 three day week, the '76 hyper inflation and 17% mortgage rate, the 80's run-down of manufacturing and rampant unemployment, the 87 currency crisis, the  early 2000s tech crash, the 2008 financial crash ....  On each occasion companies cut back and focused on 'immediate needs', pitch accordingly.

    I am just about retired at 68, some clients still come back to me for the difficult stuff.  I was in a very senior HR and pensions job in life sciences but for the last 18 years have been self employed. 

    I am a sole trader, not limited company, and carry PI insurance.  Why not register as a limited company you ask.  Well, it's legal but didn't seem right.  My children both enjoyed an excellent state education, I am rarely ill but 2 years ago needed hospital treatment that would have bankrupted me in the USA, I don't need police help or social services but they are there if I ever do, my parents were well looked after by the NHS in their old age, I live in a functioning democracy and enjoy a robust legal system and independent judiciary.  For the most part the street are safe.  None of this is free, I took the decision not to 'manage my tax bill' on ethical grounds. 

    Self employed already enjoy advantages over employees in the way most expenses can be offset.  I don't employ anyone and have no real business assets unless you count a laptop and phone and what I do can't be packaged up and sold on as a business to be run by someone else.  No brand, no (in accountants language) 'goodwill'.  The only reason to become a limited company is to save tax - I chose not to do it.  Had I listened attentively to the accountants, I would have paid a lot less tax but I listened to what I believed to be right.  I suspect we will all come out of this understanding that a low tax economy results in a low resilience country.

    This isn't a 'holier than thou' comment, we each make our own choices.  But if you choose to pay yourself only the the personal allowance and take other income as dividends to minimise tax and NI, then expecting the state to step in and pay 80% of the income you chose not to pay full tax and NI on is a big ask.  Ultimately  the taxpayers will pick up the bill, not the tax avoiders.  Is it right that an employee earning say £20k and taxed under PAYE should pay off the bill for support to any of us?  Only you can say - in a room of 10 people there are 11 definitions of 'right'.

    Choices have consequences - this is one.

  • It has been confirmed that Directors of limited companies can claim 80% of the salary they receive as a furlough payment. I agree it is only likely to be around £600 a month for most of us, given that we draw most of our income in dividends, but at least it is something during this time when our companies have no income, due to the current situation.

  • Thanks David. Please do push on at the policy level. I'm one of the hundreds (thousands?) in the profession who has structured their trading as a limited company, and am thus not entitled to the self-employed support. And I only did this a few years ago as a large potential client would only take on my services if I traded through a limited company! I am luckier than many in the current situation as I am nearer the end of my career than the start of it. I do have assets upon which I can draw to support myself and my family in the short term, but this will be at the expense of my pension savings. Through my MP I have written to the Chancellor, but the weight of the CIPD and other organisations may be more than that of one miffed director of one tiny company.

  • Thank you, David.  I only became self-employed as an independent practitioner on 1st February, so the current events couldn't have come at a worse time.  I was in the midst of networking and sourcing clients, having signed my first retained client a week before lockdown.  No financial assistance for me as I'm so new to self-employment.  I probably won't even qualify for Universal Credits as I had saved enough to start my business and keep me going for a few months while building my client base.  I suppose at least I'm lucky to have my savings.  It's all a little disheartening, but as long as I and my loved ones, family & friends come through this thing healthy and happy, I'm determined to keep going and make a success of this...eventually!

  • Thanks for this David. We appreciate it. We are seeing an innovative response from some independent HR practitioners whose work is quieter including developing on-line offerings and I really hope some of this will be showcased in the May PM.