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Who are ‘Indy Workers’, and why do they matter?

Indy Working: What is it and who does it?

Simply put, an indy (or indie) worker is an independent worker. This is quite a broad term, and can cover the self-employed, freelancers, contractors, gig workers and business owners. You could be a sole trader or in a partnership, or the director of a limited company - if you work for yourself, and are responsible for paying yourself, you are an indy worker.

Some remote working employees might say that they work independently, too. While remote workers are legally employees, and don’t fall into the indy worker category, they do work by themselves and so may struggle with the loneliness and isolation that a lot of self-employed and freelancers do, which is why many remote working employees use coworking spaces.

Precarious pay: Why does it matter?

Indy workers aren’t entitled to the same rights as employed workers. The sick leave and parental leave that many people take for granted just isn’t a given for indy workers - nor is a regular income or pension. As we discuss in our blog post on the the gig ecomony, there is a bit of fuzziness around the terms ‘employee’, ‘worker’ and ‘self-employed’. This is important because indy workers could fall into either the ‘worker’ or ‘self-employed’ categories, and ‘workers’ are entitled to some basic rights like the National Minimum Wage, protection from discrimination and working time rights (including paid holidays). It’s vital that all types of worker have access to the rights they’re entitled to, and that exploitation is prevented.

The tricky bit is knowing who is employed, self-employed or a worker. There are a few handy articles and tools that explain the distinctions between the three types of worker and their entitlements, such as ACAS' guidance, Worksmart's article and Populo's summary. One simple difference is that, while the self-employed provide their own materials and tools, they aren’t under the control of a supervisor or manager and can send someone else to do the work in their absence if need be - employees and workers do not have these characteristics. Employees have a fixed minimum number of hours and can expect to be paid for these hours, whereas there is no obligation on either side for the offering or acceptance of work in the case of the self-employed and workers. Freelancers would be examples of self-employed workers, whereas gig workers could argue that they are actually workers (there have been cases of couriers proving this, as we explain in our blog post on the gig ecomony

Employment rights: The changing face of the Indy Sector

The lack of guaranteed income means that an unpaid or late invoice can be catastrophic for indy workers. Moreover, these individuals often have no one in their corner, supporting or fighting for them when something goes wrong. This makes life and work as an indy worker worryingly precarious, and can make the experience very lonely. We hope that our coworking spaces have helped with day to day loneliness, giving a bit of a sense of community along with the desk, coffee and wifi. However, indy workers need a whole lot more support and representation, and that’s what we’re trying to achieve.

You might know that we launched our membership package earlier this year, offering invoice factoring, legal support and all sorts of lifestyle benefits and discounts for £10/month. More on the benefits can be found on our website. What we want every indy worker to know is that this membership is now free until April 2018. Anyone is welcome to join - members can be indy workers themselves, or simply someone who wants to level the playing field a bit, protect indy workers and their rights, get money from unpaid invoices back into the economy, and so on. It takes less than a minute, so we’d love you to join us: www.indycube.community

This article first featured on WalesBusiness.org and can be viewed here.

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