Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

Do freelancers have ANY rights?

As news came through this week that the government is considering extending paternity leave for male employed workers, it made me wonder what rights do freelancers actually qualify for?

Freelancers’ benefits

I think life as a freelancer has lots of benefits – being able to plot your own career and opportunities, the freedom of only answering to yourself and the fact you can (usually) enjoy a better work/life balance. However, as no work means no pay, it seems unlikely that any freelancing fathers could ever afford to take any more than a few days off work once a new child has been born into the family.

This seems a tad unfair. Finding our own work and making sure enough cash flows into the house is a hard enough job as it is. I’m not arguing that there is room for more reward than perhaps those corporate bunnies on the treadmill but let’s face it – when they’re off work, they’re off work.

Freelancers may seem to spend more time at home with their kids, but I bet most children see their freelancing mums and dads taking calls when they should be enjoying a family dinner/reading to the kids/during bath-time. Even if these family times go uninterrupted it usually results in parents not winding down in the evenings, instead, pulling their laptop back out for the umpteenth time that day, sometimes answering emails until the early hours of the morning.

Where does the money come from?

The reason (I think) why the government can effectively say, ‘take a year off…’ to employed parents on maternity/paternity leave is because they’re not footing the bill. For those entrepreneurs who run small businesses that employ others, this news could be devastating to their already-stretched finances.

When you see decisions like this on the television, does it make you think, “Hey, glad I’m a freelancer!” or, “Those jammy employees don’t know they’re born”? There’s no doubt that we enjoy more flexibility and earning potential but does this come at a cost (no pun intended)?

The bigger picture

The government say that entrepreneurs, freelancers and SMEs are the route back to a thriving economy – so why do they seem so set against their growth? This new law could cripple small businesses. Individual freelancers may see a small, temporary upsurge in demand for their services – to cover the gaps left by vacating, new-parent staff members – but ultimately, this will cost small businesses more, as they’ll effectively be ‘employing’ two people for one workload. SMEs then face going out of business, meaning there would be less companies to work for, which in turn could affect freelancers and potentially, the whole country.

This time of year can mean a slow burn for some freelancer’s workloads. For everyone, the month after the expense of Christmas and the dark, wintry weather can certainly extinguish flames of optimism that have otherwise burned brightly throughout the rest of the year. Feeling that employed workers are getting what could be perceived as preferential treatment from our government certainly does not make me a happy bunny.

Enthusiasm has left the building

Perhaps I’ve misunderstood what the pros and cons may be of this decision or I’ve got the wrong end of the stick altogether (it certainly wouldn’t be the first time). As a mother who’s produced her brood and has no intention of ever multiplying my family’s numbers again, this government decision doesn’t even affect me – so why is it vexing me so?

Do others sometimes lose sight of why they’re in the freelancing game? I’d love to know if it’s just me.

I admit I’ve found it hard to motivate myself after returning from a couple of weeks off – mainly because I haven’t had such a long break before, having always been employed and required to come in to work earlier. It was a great Christmas; plenty of rest, recuperation, relaxation and red wine! That in itself was worth the woes of being self-employed.

Is the government with us, or against us?

Do you think the government understands the plights of the common-or-garden freelancer? When they’re sat in their large houses and exercising their rights (or, as with previous MPs – their expenses) do you think they’d ever understand what it’s like to forge your own path through industry and commerce? Have they all been born with a silver spoon in their mouth, oblivious to the hardship most ordinary people face? What do they constitute as a ‘struggle’?

I’m not a political activist but I do think that politicians say they’re helping freelancers and entrepreneurs then do very little – or, in some cases, the exact opposite. Lending to small businesses was supposed to increase massively once the taxpayers (who are made up of self-employed people too!) bailed out troubled banks but all I see or hear is evidence to the contrary. Business Link – a great help to those starting out in business for themselves – was threatened, though it seems as if it may have enjoyed an uncertain reprieve. Just where are we being ‘helped’?

If there are readers out there that can answer this question, please do so. If you know of ways where freelancers benefit over their employed equivalents, do point this out. I’ve never really taken the time to think if we’re discriminated against but the more I do think about it, the more I believe we are.

What rights do freelancers have? Answers on a postcard please….in fact, forget the postcard – answers on a stamp….

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Written by Editor on January 21, 2011 and filed in Frazzled Freelancer, Freelancers, Opinion ,

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