Self Employed Rights? Laws and Rules Guide

Employment legislation applies mainly to employees. The law protects the rights of these workers and prevents employers taking advantage of them.

The self employed do not have the same protections because they are their own employee. However, there are some self employed rights and responsibilities to be aware of.

self employed worker standing in the doorway of a shop

Self employed people work for themselves. A self-employed person is not an employee. In general terms, employment legislation does not apply.

A self employed person may employ staff and become subject to employment law. This does not alter the fact that the law, for the most part, does not cover anyone with self employed status.

Self Employed Rights V’s Employee Rights

If we’re to cover what self employed rights there are, it’s important to also take a look at the rights you don’t have when entering the world of self employment.

If you are self employed you don’t have the right to:-

This is an important list to bear in mind, particularly if you are being asked to take on a role on a self employed basis. Understand the implications before going ahead.

Basic Employment Rights for Self Employed

There are some basic employment rights for the self employed. Here are the most notable rights to be aware of.


When it comes to discrimination, the self-employed have the same rights as other workers.

That said, the way in which a self employed person deals with discrimination may be tricky. Unlike an employee, a self-employed person does not have a manager or human resources department to discuss and complain about instances of discrimination.

If a self-employed person believes that discrimination is damaging his or her opportunities for work, one recourse is to contact a Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor.

Health and Safety Rights & Responsibilities

The self-employed must perform risk assessments to identify workplace hazards to themselves and others. This is a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Self-employed people sometimes work alongside other self-employed workers. If so, everyone has the right to expect that their fellow workers have assessed any health and safety risks.

Similarly, a self-employed person working on a client’s premises has the right to expect that the client has carried out a health and safety risk assessment. This assessment applies as much to self-employed workers as to the client’s employees.

If you work on someone else’s premises on a self employed basis and are injured due to poor health and safety, they can be liable to pay compensation.

Contracts With Clients

Some self-employed people sign contracts with their clients. These contracts contain details of rights and responsibilities.

These rights and responsibilities may not be part of employment law for the self-employed. The exceptions are references to discrimination and health and safety. A contract is more likely to focus on the specific work a self-employed person performs for a client.

The detail of these contracts differs from industry to industry. A self-employed person should be familiar with this detail. If not, it’s wise to study and fully understand a contract before signing.

See Also: Self employed & not getting paid – our guide on getting those invoices settled and keeping the cash flowing!

Holiday Pay

Self-employed people do not have a right to holiday pay.

Sometimes, however, a self-employed person works for a client who classes him or her as an employee. This may occur when an agency gives a self-employed person full-time work.

The contract between the agency and the self-employed worker should have relevant pay details.

State Pension

Self-employed people have a right to a state pension. But they can only receive a state pension if they have paid the necessary national insurance contributions.

Responsibility for national insurance lies with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Once the self-employed have registered with HMRC, they receive regular national insurance invoices.

Welfare Benefits

Self-employed people on low incomes have a right to receive Universal Credit and some other benefits such as child benefit.

Making a claim for Universal Credit when self employed can be complex. HMRC and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) can help. Specialist advisers at the Citizens Advice Bureau can also assist.


Generally speaking, the self-employed cannot receive statutory sick pay when they fall ill. If a self-employed person is sick, he or she may be able to claim Universal Credit from DWP.

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