Self-employed at risk due to lack of protection

Self-employed at risk due to lack of protection

Almost two million self-employed people in the UK are unable to save any money each month leaving them vulnerable to financial shocks, according to new research by LV=.

With the number of self-employed workers now close to five million, the second instalment of LV=’s ‘Income Roulette’ report – a study of debt, savings and protection among 9,000 people – explores how the self-employed would cope with an unexpected financial shock. The results show that 41% of self-employed people can’t afford to save any money each month and a further 11% save less than £50.

Furthermore, 33% couldn’t survive for more than three months if they lost their income – meaning they fall short of the Money Advice Service’s recommended amount of savings that would allow them to be financially resilient.

When looking at barriers to saving, the figures show that monthly bills eat up the wages of 62% of self-employed people, compared to a national average of 56%, with this group also more likely to be hampered by debt (38% vs 28% national average). In addition to this, sole traders are more likely to be hit by unexpected costs such as home maintenance or car repairs (33% vs 28%).

Only 4% of self-employed people in LV=’s research have income protection, compared to a national average of 11%, with more than 42% mistakenly believing that they’re not eligible for it.

Despite the lack of saving and insurance, the research shows this group is aware of the risks of self-employment – 28% are worried about having an accident and not being able to work (vs the national average of 21%) and a similar proportion (29%) are worried about falling sick (vs 24%).

LV= is calling on the government to give the new Single Financial Guidance Body (SFGB) a specific remit to focus on promoting UK financial resilience when it is established in 2018. Self-employment contributed £255 billion to the economy in 2016 alone, with the Office of National Statistics crediting it as one of the defining characteristics of the UK’s economic recovery. LV= wants the SFGB to take note of this and focus on helping sole traders and small businesses, alongside other groups at risk of financial shocks, as well as exploring how private insurance can pay a part in increasing UK resilience.

Justin Harper (pictured), head of protection policy at LV=, said: “The labour market has changed markedly in recent years, with self-employment continuing to rise. The government’s Taylor Review sought to address the challenges of the modern workplace and ensure all workers are aware of their rights, but it’s often the case that self-employed people and small business owners lack the safety net of an employer’s benefits, such as sick pay. This means they risk having to rely instead on state benefits which can involve a lengthy application and wait, with no guarantee of any support.

“We recommend self-employed people speak to a professional financial adviser about whether they’d benefit from taking out private insurance, such as an income protection policy that will pay out if they couldn’t work because of accident, sickness or disability. However, it’s also vital the government finds ways to support small businesses and entrepreneurs as they are a crucial part of the UK economy. We believe the new financial guidance body should have a specific responsibility to build financial resilience among UK households, particularly in the most vulnerable groups like the self-employed.”