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Self employed able to take advantage of health and safety exemption

As of October the 1st, many self-employed individuals will no longer be covered by the health and safety regulations that would normally apply to a permanent employee. The changes to the way the regulations apply are based on recommendations made by the Lofstedt review which was conducted in 2011. This review suggested that the requirement […]

By Laura Nixon on 06 Oct 2015
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As of October the 1st, many self-employed individuals will no longer be covered by the health and safety regulations that would normally apply to a permanent employee. The changes to the way the regulations apply are based on recommendations made by the Lofstedt review which was conducted in 2011. This review suggested that the requirement to comply with the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act should not apply to freelancers and other self-employed individuals who are engaged in work which does not pose any risk to others.

Until this week, there has been a requirement for those who work for themselves to provide risk assessments and submit reports to the Health and Safety Executive. Many people found this to be an onerous and often unnecessarily burdensome task, particularly in the case of sole traders for whom the admin levels were thought to be disproportionate compared to the actual risks involved.

The changes are intended to make compliance easier for freelancers in typically low-risk professions such as graphic designers, consultants, journalists and writers. With the number of fatal accidents in the workplace falling by 87 per cent since the introduction of the legislation in 1974 and the number of non-fatal accidents falling by 70 per cent as well, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that compliance has been an effective tool to minimise the risk to which workers are exposed.

The change in the rules has not diminished the responsibility of workers to ensure that they observe best practice and take adequate precautions in relation to their work, and there are sectors where the rules still apply. These include those who work on the railways, in construction, with asbestos, in agriculture, those who work with gas, anyone working with genetically modified organisms, and any self-employed individual who has employees for whom they are responsible.

The inclusion of the latter category has caused some concern that the failure to include employers in the exemption could be damaging to the growth of small businesses in the UK, although companies with fewer than four staff will be subject to a simplified version of the rules which will not require them to submit risk assessments.

With as many as 1.7 million freelancers affected by the changes, there should be less pressure on swathes of freelancers who will now have more time to invest in their business operations, with an estimated saving to contractors and independent professionals of £930,000.

Anyone who wants to understand the changes in the legislation and ascertain whether it applies to them should consider taking the advice of a specialist freelancer accountant. With decades’ of experience, our team can offer advice on a range of issues surrounding self employment, from starting up to planning for the future and everything in between. Call our team today on 01253 362062 or email us at contractoradvice@nixonwilliams.com for details of how we could help you.

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