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Self-Drive Worker

The UK’s working world is changing hugely

An introduction to the topic


The major part of the support rationale behind Working Free are the  monthly ONS Employment figures (ONS – EMP01).  These  are the primary – and probably only – source of full  employment figures for the UK.

All other commentators take these primary quantitative figures from the ONS as a base. Virtually everything they do are either analyses of these figures or of a qualitative nature.  Appreciating these qualitative figures needs an understanding of their bases and assumptions on how they were calculated. The ONS has their own huge statistical sampling technique – explained later in this section.

The main challenge facing Working Free is this; How do we define the size of the specific market for the workforce within the ONS overall total employed figure of 33mn and in a way to identifies what is generally defined as “atypical workers”.

It’s complicated!

This is how we do it:

We start with figure for Full Time Employees and amend that figure to represent  PURELY Full Time – nothing less and nothing more. We then deduct this from the overall Total of 33mn – as below:-


NOT f/t
Employees (Full-time) 21610
Employees (Full time but with a 2nd job) 1165
Temps (incl: here in F/T Employees) 1640
Employees (Part time) 6887 6887
Self Employed (Full time) 2908 2908
Self Employed (Part time) 1483 1483
Unpaid family 87 87
Govt Support 77 77
Total in Employment 33,053 14,247
All figures are Million. | 43.2% |


These figures are for May 2023 – and, at the time of writing, the latest published by the ONS

Working Free contends that 43.2 % of the total 33.053  are what we call Self Drive Workers.


What are Self Drive Workers?

Self Drive Workers are a varied and mixed group of:-

Part-timers, Self-employed, Contractors, Freelancers, Interim Managers, Temps, Consultants,  Management Consultants, Semi-retired people, Portfolio Workers, Off-payroll workers, etc.

(Portfolio Workers include a broad mix of Professionals who have more than one source of income and  work-type activity (whether on the payroll, freelance or non-remunerated – or a mix of these.)

Additional features that muddy the waters include:-

  • Equity Partners in professional Practices are almost entirely categorised as Self Employed but, to many appear as such.
  • Many individuals who are Directors of their own limited companies describe themselves as Full Time employees of their companies.
  • IR35, seen by many as a silly – often damaging – arrangement, also distorts the picture.
  • Those NOT FTE but allocating some of their time to activities that if they did not do this, the state would have to pay for it – such as caring for grandchildren, needy rand/or sick relatives.
  • As the ONS base their figures (Labour Force Survey) on a huge sample, they were not able (and this is what they said) to take fully into account the impacts of Covid. (An example of this would be that for a period of time there were 9m – virtually all of them FTEs) – on furlough.  Not allowed to work!  But still included in the ONS stats as FTEs.
As at February 2022
We have recently published (16.2.22) a Press Release (See here) following the ONS release the monthly Employment Statistics up to 31.12.21. As at Sept 2021, no major re-writing of our explanatory text about “Self Drive Workers” would appear to be necessary.  But the figures have changed over the past 2 years -Major unemployment did not happen; Self Employment plummeted dramatically (explanations needed) and, (experts say) about 400k workers disappeared from the total Employment figure.
Working Free still thinks that our figure for Self Drive Workers will rise to about half of the Total Employment figure.
Read our blog (See here) Comments that we can publish are welcome – emails to hello@WorkingFree.co.uk
As at Sept 2021
Working Free asks you to note that the principles behind the Self Drive Worker concept have not changed for the last 10-15 years (if ever) but the figures have changed. Covid has increased unemployment and moved some self drive workers onto FTE status. We think that this position will soon return to previous patterns.)
(As at June 2017)

About a half of the UK’s working population of about 32m are full time permanent employees on a payroll. The rest are Self Drive Workers.

53% of the UK’s working population are full time employees on a payroll and Working Free contends that 47% are Self Drive Workers. We publish here ONS figures that support our creative contention.

Whatever conclusion you come to, you will doubtless recognise that, with every passing year, there are more workers moving from the 53% category into the 47% category – and not really knowing how best to handle it.  Or doing better at it if they only knew how!

However, all may well not be what it seems!  We encourage all who have an interest in this area to spend some time coming to their own conclusions.  Please read:-

This is what Working Free sets out to address.

Understanding what this is, what it means, how the figures come to be identified and interpreted offers serious value to senior Professionals operating on an independent basis or moving towards this.


The Lead contact here is Charles Russam.  Charles Russam is Managing Director of Working Free and led the creation of this website, liaising with a broad range of supporters and collaborators in the process.

  • Charles Russam
    Charles Russam
    Managing Director
ONS figures supporting the Self Drive Worker Concept

Please note…

  • The figures in the following charts set out to isolate “purely full-time employees on a payroll” from the rest – hereafter referred to as “Self Drive Workers”.
  • Disagreeing with this approach is a perfectly sensible position to adopt – but wherever you finish up it makes the point that about half of the UK’s working population have, to some extent, responsibility for their own incomes.
  • On this basis part-time workers on a payroll are seen as Self Drive Workers.
  • Full time workers/ employees on a payroll and with second jobs are seen as Self Drive Workers.
  • Of the total part time figure of 8402 at October 2017 (8352 at April 2016)  (employees and self-employed) 12% (14% at April 2016) could not find a full-time job; 71% (69%) did not want one; 3% (3%) were ill and 13% (13%) were students. No information is available for the balance – typical of the slow and marginal changes for the best part of a decade.
“Better Comes Next” is our collaborative and inclusive management mission.

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Working Free Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for any loss or disadvantage that may arise out of reliance on any opinions, material or introductions made through this website and all those making use of these services should take appropriate business and legal advice and conduct appropriate due diligence before making any commitments.

Charles Russam
Managing Director

Charles Russam is the Founder and Associate Director of www.Russam-GMS.co.uk  which he chaired from 1982 until 2014. Russam GMS is the longest established Interim Management Provider in the UK and has a complementary and growing Search Practice which includes a specialist Practice for NED Search and also the Not for Profit/ Charity Sector and also has an international capability through www.WILgroup.net.

Charles founded the Interim Management Association in 1987 – www.InterimManagement.uk.com .

He also set up www.DevonshireHouseNetwork.co.uk , the successor organisation to the Devonshire House Management Club.  DHN is a people-focused membership club for Director-level professionals in leadership roles who have an instinctive focus on the human side of enterprise. DHN Members have a serious interest in all aspects of people at work and how people can flourish within whatever and wherever the work environment and context may be. Please see www.DevonshireHouseNetwork.co.uk

“In a sense, this website is a bit of a personal odyssey in that, after the past thirty five years in the Interim Management business, I am still having weekly conversations with senior executives looking to do Interim Management – or something similar – and not knowing where to start – or where the start actually is. So – writing it all down for the benefit of all others planning or embarking on a later-life, independently working lifestyle  – and collaborating with anyone with anything useful to say – seemed a sensible thing to do!”


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