Swathes of Brits are becoming self-employed, with nearly five million registered in 2016, equating to 16 per cent of the UK workforce. With the draws of better pay, flexible hours and control over work-life balance, it is no wonder that this form of business is propping up the UK economy, contributing more than £119 billion last year alone. With the quality and quantity of opportunities available, aided by advances in technology and the increasingly forward-thinking nature of employers, this is a trend set to continue at pace.
In fact, our own research has shown that the UK’s self-employed workers earn more, work less and are happier than those in traditional employment. However, that’s not to say that it’s all plain sailing. Nearly six in ten (58 per cent) self-employed individuals worry about not having enough predictable income, while one in four (23 per cent) say setting boundaries to stop work becoming a 24/7 commitment is a challenge. With this in mind, those working for themselves regularly face a difficult decision: when and when not to put in the hours?
This issue is particularly prevalent across the nation’s six fixed bank holidays and two public holidays every year. Most staff on regular companies’ payroll take paid bank holidays for granted. However, the self-employed are not entitled to statutory paid holiday, and bank or public holidays cannot be taken as paid leave.
The self-employed are not tied to traditional ways of working and do not automatically assume a bank holiday is a necessary break. Our research reveals that only 13 per cent of Britain’s workforce expect to be working a traditional nine-to-five role by 2025, and 70 per cent are considering adopting a less rigid working pattern. When you work for yourself you have a choice: seize the opportunity for an extra day’s income, or join the ranks of other Brits making the most of the free time.
Option 1: Work and get paid
One of the great benefits of being self-employed is the ability and freedom to be productive exactly when it suits. A recent poll flagged control over schedule (77 per cent) and flexibility to work on one’s own terms (68 per cent) as the most enticing factors. However, some of the more stressful aspects of this form of work include getting paid and monitoring cash flow.
Each person’s situation is different, and each bank holiday can be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Do you have a strict deadline to meet or do you need the extra income provided by working when everyone else has the day off? When you’re self-employed you can use this last point to your advantage and could even think about charging a higher ‘emergency, out of office’ rate to boost income.
Option 2: Take unpaid leave
However tempting it may be to rack up the hours, taking regular breaks is important. In addition to personal mental and physical health benefits, a recent study suggests improvement in wellbeing results in improved workplace performance in terms of profitability, labour productivity and the quality of output.
Research shows that the self-employed earn around £6,000 more per year than the average UK employee, despite working 10 hours less per week. This suggests that a work-life balance is being achieved, and the average self-employed professional can afford the luxury of a day off with the rest of the country every so often.
Understanding your finances is the first step
To make the most of the financial gains, time savings and improved personal wellbeing that self-employment can offer, Britain’s self-employed workers must keep a keen eye on their finances. Without the backing of dedicated finance experts present within larger-scale businesses, individuals can have the benefits of going self-employed undermined when timings of incomings and outgoings are not kept in line.
With the right organisation and attention to cashflow, the self-employed stand to be able to enjoy bank holidays whether for work or recreation: it’s just a matter of planning ahead, and looking at their business’ bigger picture.
Dominic Allon is vice president and managing director at Intuit Europe.