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The Commission on the Future of Employment Support

The Commission on the Future of Employment Support has been set up to develop evidence-led proposals for reform of our system of employment support and services, so that it can better meet the needs of individuals, employers and our economy. 10 Nov 2022

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A Call for Evidence

A submission from Working Free Ltd – www.WorkingFree.co.uk  – 21.1.23

Summary of Submission

This excellent and well-founded commission addresses a serious and unprecedented need. The contention of Working Free is that it only addresses part of the problem – and it should address the whole problem.

Working Free makes the case that the scope of this Commission should be broadened to better understand our system of employment support and services.  It should do this by not only understanding what is happening with job-seekers (mainly FTE.)  (Most Part-time workers do not aspire to FTE status.) but also with work-seekers (mainly the self-employed) as well .  Importantly, it should also seek to understand what is happening within Organisations and with Employers.  The concept of  “Employee” should be broadened to cover the whole working population.  (Described by ONS as “Total in Employment”.

  • Major changes in corporate models. (See Footnote 1)
  • Interpretational difficulties. (See Footnote 2)
  • Definition variations (See Footnote 3)
  • The danger of reacting to snapshots rather than fundamental change. (See Footnote 4)

All these – and more – lie at the heart of this new and emerging environment. This is all new.

This Commission is primarily driven by the very visible demand for human resource by businesses and a supposed but largely absent supply.  This includes a curious lack of – and failure to – match one with the other.  This was not obvious in the beginning; evolved fairly quickly and is now a major issue.

But the Commission will also need to determine the nature of the corporate demand and how it has changed over the past three years. The Commission  will also need to determine the nature of the supply – either for what it is but also for what is needed.  It will need to identify the needs for training, re-training , skills development – and where this will come from. It will also need to look at  and the nature of apathy, disinterest, adoption of a preferred lifestyle, sentiments and financial comfort.  This is a mix of benefits, capital release , early use of Pensions , working from home,  technology and, probably, some residual furlough money.

This situation was not needed – or even articulated — prior to Covid. Much of this is new. See Footnote 1 re the changing drivers of the demand.

The contention of Working Free ……

………. is that purely FTE (Full Time Employees) workers (the traditional understanding of what is meant by – a WORKER.) is something over half the working population – the balance is something slightly less than half – and needs to be understood.

Working Free supports this contention by identifying this purely FTE (Full Time Employees) figure as follows:-

The latest (Oct 2022) ONS Employment Figures (EMP01 – XLS (619.5KB) show this:-

FTE                 (Million)

Less FTEs who have a second job

Less Temporary workers (assumed to be included)

Adjusted FTE

Total in Employment










Let’s call them 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.)

(In terms of interpretation – for example – part-timers (or those who do not work) who care for family members, do their own day-care for children or even do voluntary work – all these should be categorised as Self Drive Workers.  If they did not do it, someone else would need to be paid to do it.)

Pre-Covid, this 42.6% reached, at its highest, 47%. – very nearly half of the UK’s Total Employment figure.

This commission needs to take this into account.

Importantly, Self Drive Workers are characterised by their need to source their own work, wholly or in part.  They do not have an Employment Contract. They are not Employees. They would have what might be called an Engagement Agreement – as an external Consultancy might have.

Various Covid impacts – and those currently being discovered and to be discovered – have reduced this Self Driver figure over the Covid period.  Working Free contends that this figure – now heading towards parity –  will include  those who would otherwise be unemployed. (A reason why unemployment did not materialise immediately after Covid – and is not likely to increase now.)

This Reporting impact includes disruption to the collation and  preparation of the figures within the ONS – and commented on by them;  emergence of inactivity and illness impacts; IR35-driven Independents moving from Self Employment to corporate payrolls, being the main ones.


IES writes:-

We are defining employment support as those public or publicly-funded services that:

  • Help people who want to move into work, stay in work or progress in work to do so – regardless of what (if any) benefits they are on, and where and how those services are delivered; and
  • Help employers to find, recruit and retain the right people for their jobs

Working Free supports this.  But points to the need to see this being extended beyond Direct Employees  (FTEs).

Employer training was in decline – with falls in the number of people accessing training at work, and workplace training often limited to induction, health and safety. Low investment in people and capital was also contributing to weak productivity growth, and a widening gap compared with other major economies.

Working Free supports this but has no evidence in this area.  It is noted that Training – as described above – did change from wholly technical and administrative  into improving personal and management skills – which also was presented as a worker benefit and, in fact, was more likely to be of greater benefit to future employers. This sentiment appears to have changed by Covid.

The author of this Submission recalls past conversations with some Trade Union Leaders. Two common features arose – one being an almost fierce support of their members’ needs  – at worst maintaining the status quo but, ideally, at best, their improvement.  The other feature was the growing need for training, re-training and upskilling of their members – to be better at what they do and also prepare for inevitable change.  Some union Leaders take the view that even talking about such matters would send a message of weakness. But most observers will see this need as undeniable.

Clearly, in times of accelerating technical and structural change, training – broadly interpreted – is vital.


1          Major changes in corporate models.

Please see the Working Free  Insights Paper – Diaspora Business Networks – Is this the coming Business Model? Read More ….   (Working Together with www.DevonshireHouseNetwork.co.uk.)

This Insights Paper notes the changing drivers of the changing demand.  Because, at the current time, Organisations cannot get what they want, they will be – and are – looking for different solutions – mostly through technology and changing business practices. The immediate impact of this is reflected generally in lower quality of service levels, which, in itself, is damaging.  This means that when supply actually arrives they may well not be needed. It also means that consumers will be disappointed at service levels worse than pre-Covid – and costing a lot more – and they will have changed their consumer habits.

2          Interpretational difficulties.

“Does anyone really understand how the UK workplace is changing”


This occasional Working Free Insights Paper shines a snapshot light on the complexity now confronting us.  For one month, it profiles the different and separate aspects of this issue scrutinised and written by the UK’s best journalistic brains.  Each one is an issue; each one is part of the bigger – and whole – picture.

The role of ONS is fundamental and vital to this overall debate. The ONS is the source of virtually all the statistical data. The ONS are frank about the disruptions caused by Covid and explain much of this.  Their information is based on their statistical sample LFS database of some 40k households which, in themselves, will have suffered disruption through Covid. Covid is posing question that will have no easy answers.

 3         Definition variations

Quoted from the IES Paper

Employment encompasses everyone who is in any form of work of any duration. This mainly comprises paid work as an employee or while self-employed but can also include people working unpaid (for example for a family business or as part of an employment scheme) as well as people who are away from a job that they expect to return to (for example due to ill health or temporary lay-off). In all there are 32.7 million people in work, or around 61% of the population (rising to 75% of the population aged 16-64)

This submission is compatible with this.

Economic inactivity then describes the remaining population who are not employed and not unemployed – i.e. those who are out of work and either not looking for work and/ or not available for work. The most common reasons that people give for being ‘economically inactive’ are that they are out of work due to a long-term health condition, are non-working students, are looking after their family or home (usually mothers of younger children), or are retired (especially among those aged 65 and over). Other reasons can include short-term ill health, early retirement, being discouraged from working, waiting for a job to start, or not needing to work. Overall, around 20 million people are economically inactive but half of these are aged 65 or over. Among those aged 16-64, 9 million people are economically inactive, comprising 21.7% of the population.

To this insightful narrative, we would add the following point:-

This scenario emerged piecemeal when post Covid expectations were not as expected  and solutions were sought. In fact, high levels of unemployment were expected but never materialised. Interestingly, many think unemployment will emerge as we move further into 2023.  No sign of it yet.  One question that probably needs to be asked is what happened to all that furlough money!

4          The danger of reacting to snapshots rather than to fundamental change

No comment – except it might be the wrong thing to do!

5          About Working Free – www.WorkingFree.co.uk

Working Free is a Specialist Board Advisory business supporting organisations and their Director-level executives transitioning towards independent working and thinking.

See our One-page Summarywww.workingfree.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/WFL-One-Page-Summary.pdf

Put Working Free Programmes into Google. 

Key Points

  • Whilst all civilised countries need to look after their people (help where help is needed) there does need to be greater effort aimed at “growth”. (An abused and much maligned word that really means the generation of national wealth without which societies’ needs cannot be satisfied.) Currently, this is absent.
  • Whilst this Commission will, no doubt, help immeasurably those Job Seekers who need Government help, they should also seek to help the 42.6% of the Total Employment figure who Government seems to have generally ignored – the image being of many not able to get a “proper Job” and being a “tax dodger”. Short-sighted of Government.
  • Self Drive Workers want serious recognition – ideally formal approval – assistance in the form of a level playing field, the overhaul of IR35, a silly tax that is causing much inconvenience, unfairness  and actual financial harm, particularly where better ways have been available. They need to be seen as mainstream in the business fabric of the UK.
  • Finally, Self Drive Workers are also Entrepreneurs – by default – because they have to find their own work. If you want to know more about acquiring the Entrepreneurial mindset,  buy a copy of Reid Hoffman’s book – “The Start-Up of YOU!”  Adapt to the future – Invest in Yourself – and Transform your Career. It includes one of the very best THREE WORD mantras  – ASSETS – ASPIRATIONS – MARKETS  and is aimed at those keen to advance their Careers. 

It means – take stock of – and understand – your personal assets – focus your ambitions – get into the right market.  The key word is “Aspirations”.   Anyone can “aspire”. What makes this obligatory reading is that it comes from Reid Hoffman, who cofounded and is Exec Chairman of LinkedIn and sold it to Microsoft for $26.2 billion in cash and is now also on their Board.

This is probably the best book about Individuals and how they can make the best of themselves since Samuel Smiles wrote and self-published his epochal tome “Self Help”.  He did this in 1859.  Basic principles rarely change.  www.workingfree.co.uk/echoes-samuel-smiles-1812-1904/


Charles M Russam




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