The Blackpool-based Federation of Small Businesses is calling on all political parties to put the self-employed front and centre when drawing-up their election manifestos.
The call comes as its latest research shows confidence among sole traders in negative territory for five consecutive quarters. Its third quarter SBI report, showed the confidence measure stood at -7.5 in the three months to September.
Well over half (62 per cent) of sole traders do not expect their performance to improve over the next three months, with more than one in ten (12 per cent) expecting it to be ‘much worse’.
Some 35 per cent reported revenues were up in Q3, while four in ten (40 per cent) said they fell.
Elsewhere, the latest SBI shows sole traders continuing to struggle disproportionately when it comes to accessing external finance. Just 7 per cent of self-employed respondents applied for credit in Q3, compared to 13 per cent across the small business community as a whole.
While just under six in ten (59 per cent) sole trader applications for finance were approved, seven in ten (70 per cent) were successful across all respondents.
Close to two thirds (65 per cent) of successful self-employed finance applicants were offered a borrowing rate of 6 per cent or more, but this was the case for fewer than half (49 per cent) of all successful small business applicants surveyed.
The FSB is calling on all political parties to delay changes to IR35, or ‘off-payroll working’, set to start in April; freeze fuel duty; bring the maternity and paternity allowances for self-employed parents in-line with the employed; end a £2.5bn late payment crisis and update business rates.
FSB national chairman Mike Cherry said: “Our 4.9 million-strong self-employed community has suffered massively as a result of three years of indecision and dithering in Westminster. This election is a chance for politicians to turn the tide, get back to domestic issues and support the sole traders that drive our economy forward.
“Against such an uncertain backdrop, the self-employed certainly don’t need an IR35 rule change that makes hiring contractors less attractive. We’ve already heard noises from big corporates to indicate that – if this change does take effect in April as planned – they’ll pull the plug on sole traders.
“Common sense dictates that a delay to the April roll-out of these rules is now needed.”