Self-employment used to be rarity in the traditional world of lifetime employment. However, long before the gig economy was recognised as a phenomenon, the structure and experience of the UK workforce was changing. Certain professions have always been built on the self-employed model such as barristers, dental hygienists and therapists. To some extent, these professions command higher than average pay in order to protect income in times of illness.

The Rise of Self-Employment

Over the years, the ranks of the self-employed have been significantly swelled by newcomers, driven sometimes by choice and often by necessity. The number of self-employed people in the UK is set to exceed 1 million in the near future. That is a huge number, dwarfing most industries and all private sector employers. Only the NHS is larger, with 1.4 million employees.

Of course, self-employment is not an industry, but these figures should give us pause. The direction of travel is upward. The economy is rapidly adapting to this comprehensive adjustment to the working relationship, accommodating the self-employed within its structures with increasingly imaginative arrangements. Self-employment can be extremely beneficial both for the individual worker and for the businesses to whom they provide their services.

The Post-Pandemic World of Work

Covid has changed the working landscape. It’s easy to overstate its effects but it’s also important to recognise its influence. Remote and home-working have come into their own where social distancing and self-isolation made anything else unworkable. As lockdown restrictions ease, it is by no means certain that things will revert to the pre-pandemic norms. The changes are likely to accelerate.

It seems inevitable that the incidence of self-employment will also increase. Flexibility, in general, has been shown to work and for employers, a different status for employees could bring significant savings and efficiencies. Workers who have experienced a looser working relationship may be receptive to new practices.

All of that is fine when things work well, but when something goes wrong, it is essential to have contingency plans. Income protection insurance is the answer. If your status means that you no longer enjoy the benefits of a sickness package then you will be uniquely vulnerable as a self-employed person. Other options to protect income may include government benefits, savings, early retirement or even the support of a partner. But these are just short-term solutions.

Even if you have no children or other dependents, you will still have bills to pay – council tax, utilities, rent or mortgage, the costs of everyday living – and only a solid, guaranteed income protection insurance plan can shield you from the harshest vicissitudes of being physically unable to work.

Planning insurance is rarely high on anyone’s list because it so often seems to be a burden imposed on us by third parties, be it car insurance, buildings insurance or even professional indemnity insurance. No one wants to contemplate the shock of being unable to earn a living, but the ideal time to contemplate it and prepare for it is when you are in work. If you buy your security now, you won’t have to worry about it later, when worrying will be all you can do.

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