Research from a new think tank has revealed that the self-employed are worse off at work than employees. The self-employed are hit twice, as the report also revealed that many are no longer enjoying one of the traditional benefits of being self-employed, autonomy, as well.

The paper entitled The employment divide: is it possible to simplify the distinction between self-employment and employment? was produced by the Social Market Foundation (SMF). The report found that many of the self-employed act and look like regular employees, but at the same time, they lack rights and protection, are less likely to be paid overtime, and do not even have the autonomy that most people associate with working for themselves.

The report calls on the government to consider measures that would reduce the incentive for companies to treat their employees as if they are self-employed. Steps that could be taken to achieve this would be limiting the option of being self-employed to a business’ higher paid employees who have the power to trade off protections and rights for the benefits of self-employment, and over time equalising the level of NICs.

This paper is just a part of a broader undertaking by the SMF looking into the position in the labour market of the self-employed. The work is being supported by PRISM, a trade association for contractors.

Emran Mian, SMF’s director said: “This new research suggests that self-employed workers may be getting the worst of both worlds. At the very least, people may look and behave very much like employees and yet lack the rights and protections of employees.”