One of the issues that arose for me all too often while campaigning in last year’s local elections was the lack of unemployment supports for self-employed people when work dried up for them or disappeared altogether. At this weekend’s Labour Party Conference I proposed a motion that asked for changes be made to our welfare and PRSI system as per the recommendations of the Third Report of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare: Extending Social Insurance Coverage for the Self –Employed (May 2013).
This motion was passed and a first step in reversing this inequality and better support self-employed workers has been taken.
Below is the text of the motion and my speech
Too often during this recession and previous ones have we seen the impact on workers and their families when they lose their jobs. While not the same as a decent wage our social welfare system cushions their loss and helps provide for them and their families.
However, for those who are self-employed and find their work gone or drying up this is not entirely the case. Nor do they have the same supports when they have an accident or suffer an illness that leaves them unable to work. Think of your local taxman, hairdresser, electrician, beautician or plumber.This situation is unfair.
I wholehearted commend Labour’s success in government in retaining core welfare entitlements and creating progressive pathways to and opportunities for employment. I also commend the work Minister Nash is doing to improve worker’s rights.
However, our work for workers is incomplete – we must also act to afford self-employed workers protections and entitlements similar to those of their employed counterparts.
In particular, the means testing criteria and process for self-employed workers to qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance needs to be simplified and aligned with the criteria of their employed counterparts. Entitlements to long-term illness, incapacity and invalidity benefits need to be extended to include self-employed persons.
Changes also need to be made to the welfare system to allow those previously self-employed workers or those under employed to access labour activation supports and training, particularly in cases where they do not qualify for Jobseeker’s Allowance.
Inherent in extending these entitlements is the need to change our PRSI system and the contributions made by self-employed workers to it.
In an environment where entrepreneurism and self-starting is encouraged and, indeed, viewed as a key strategy in employment creation it is essential that such workers are given assurances and protection when things go wrong. Self-employed workers are job creators of the future and deserve equal welfare protection.
In tandem with these changes to a fairer, more inclusive working environment, is the need to ensure full compliance with the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employed Status of Individuals.
This is particularly necessary in sectors with high levels of flexible, precarious or casual workers or where intents are being made to exploit vulnerable and migrant workers and to circumvent labour legislation. I’m particularly thinking of the construction sector and recent issues highlighted by Unite Trade Union
All these changes are based on the evidence and the recommendations presented in the Third Report of the Advisory Group on Tax and Social Welfare: Extending Social Insurance Coverage for the Self –Employed (May 2013). I am therefore asking that we the Labour Party move to implement the recommendations of this report in Budget 2016 and that for a commitment to their full implementation in our Election Manifesto for the next General Election’
Original Text: Welfare Entitlements for Self-Employed Persons
Conference acknowledges that Labour’s success in government in retaining core welfare entitlements and creating not only progressive pathways to and opportunities for employment but also an environment that better protects and supports our workers. Conference, however, notes that despite making pay related social insurance contributions self-employed persons do not qualify for the same welfare entitlements as their employed counterparts. Therefore Conference calls for the full equalisation of welfare entitlements for self-employed persons in Budget 2016 and in the Labour Election Manifesto.