Opinion  

IR35 tax changes helped cause the lorry driver crisis

Derek Reynolds

Derek Reynolds

In some jobs, it is true that employment status becomes blurred. Take the legal dispute between Amazon and its drivers: Amazon want to keep the drivers as contractors, but those drivers probably sit at the lower end of the freelance pay spectrum and appear to enjoy little autonomy. 

Even if Amazon’s legal team manage to argue that their drivers tick some of the necessary boxes, the Tribunal will likely follow the earlier decision in the Uber case and grant workers’ right to the claimants. 

Haulage drivers on the other hand, particularly those with their own cab and the smaller operators with a small fleet, can normally demonstrate that they have autonomy, are highly skilled and can be self-employed. 

Haulage is the crisis of the moment, but without reform and resolution other industries will be affected. Hairdressers, workers in the creative industries and engineers are just three of the other sectors already being affected by these changes. 

With Christmas on the horizon, the most important supply chain moment in the calendar, the crisis will only get worse. 

The crucial next step is to generate courage around the IR35 changes and show businesses that compliance is achievable – and that contracting is alive and well. Businesses shouldn’t surrender to quick-fix solutions. Freelancers are crucial to the UK economy, and while tax compliance should be at the heart of every business, this and the use of self-employment are not mutually exclusive. 

The UK urgently needs to find another 100,000 drivers. With Christmas around the corner, a self-employment resolution might not be as exciting as a new console or electric scooter, but it should be at the top of everybody’s list to Saint Nick.  

Derek Reynolds is managing director of The Guild and Guild Freelancing, whose operatives are present on the UK’s major infrastructure projects, including Hinkley Point and Crossrail