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Think tank urges greater savings flexibility for self-employed

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The government should offer greater flexibility for the increasing number of British self-employed workers, according to a report by cross-party think tank Demos.

The report, Going It Alone, includes recommendations to give the self-employed greater power to access recent pension contributions. This is intended to tackle the insecurity of not having the guaranteed income of employees.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that only 30% of self-employed workers pay into a pension, compared to 51% of employed staff.

The report argues this is largely down to self-employed workers feeling nervous about their money being locked away and inaccessible if they experience a prolonged period without work.

Demos research director and report author Duncan O'Leary warned that without a change the savings gap between the self-employed and employees is likely to rise in the future.

"Employees already benefit from employer contributions and the nudge of auto-enrolment into company pensions," he said.

“The self-employed have neither of these advantages. In addition, income can be unpredictable for the self-employed, leaving many worried about 'locking away' money in pension schemes."

The Association for Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed director of policy Simon McVicker said policies should be put in place to support the "brave individuals who go it alone".

"Self-employment is about choice," he said. "This proposal from Demos for pension reform is one way in which government can provide a flexible and fair choice to the self-employed, which lets them choose how to save without restricting the way they work."