9 essential workers’ rights contractors and the self-employed should know

Even if you don’t work for a boss full-time, it’s important to remember that you are still entitled to certain rights. We discuss nine of the most important ones today.

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Last night, dine-in couples had their Valentine’s Day plans abruptly changed, as a strike was called by takeaway delivery drivers working for platforms including Deliveroo and UberEats. The strikes affected four major delivery apps nationwide, and involved up to 3,000 drivers.

The cause of the strike was a demand by drivers for better pay and improved working conditions. Their actions have raised pertinent questions about workers’ rights for contractors and those registered as self-employed

While rights for employed individuals are more clear-cut, and usually communicated to employees, there is more leg-work and research to do when it comes to contractors and self-employed individuals. But fear not – we’re here to help.

Here are nine essential rights every contractor and self-employed individual should be aware of:

1. Right to prompt payment

This is one of the most important rights, but also the most abused. In September 2023, research indicated the number of UK SMEs that take over 90 days to pay their contractors has increased 40% year-on-year (Sonovate). In another study by Nerdwallet, over half of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are still struggling with unpaid invoices from six months to a year ago.

If after polite reminders and proclamations about loud budgeting don’t work, then your next cause of action is to charge interest, which is what your rights entitle you to do. 

The Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998, and the Late Payment of Commercial Debts Regulations 2013, establish the right to claim interest, debt recovery costs, and compensation for late payments.

2. Right to a written contract

Contractors and the self-employed have the right to a written contract, or at the very least a term sheet, outlining the terms and conditions of their work. 

This document should include details such as payment terms, scope of work, and termination clauses.

3. Right to health and safety protections

Even though you’re not a traditional employee, contractors and self-employed people are entitled to a safe working environment. Employers must provide necessary health and safety protections and training.

4. Right to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

This is a trickier one. If you’re self-employed in the UK, you can’t claim sick pay like an employee, and are not automatically entitled to SSP. But, you may be eligible for other forms of financial support such as Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit. It’s advisable to check with HMRC or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for specific guidance based on your circumstances.

You may also be able to claim a tax deduction for certain expenses related to being sick when it’s time for your self assessment, such as medical expenses or costs for hiring temporary help while you’re unable to work.

5. Right to protection against discrimination

Contractors and the self-employed are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, which means you cannot be treated unfairly or discriminated against based on characteristics like your age, gender, race, or disability.

6. Right to holiday pay

While self-employed individuals don’t receive paid holidays in the traditional sense, they have the right to factor holiday pay into their rates. Contractors may negotiate holiday pay as part of their contract terms.

7. Right to pension enrollment

Depending on your earnings and age, you may have the right to enrol in a workplace pension scheme under auto-enrolment laws as a self-employed individual. It’s essential to understand the eligibility criteria and take advantage of pension schemes for retirement planning.

8. Right to protection against unfair dismissal

Unlike traditional employees, contractors and the self-employed don’t have protection against unfair dismissal. However, they may still have rights under contract law or specific industry regulations, so it’s worth checking carefully if you believe you have a claim.

9. Right to flexible working

Contractors and self-employed already have more control over their schedules, but they still have the right to request flexible working arrangements from clients or employers. This could include adjustments to hours or location of work to accommodate personal circumstances.


As we navigate the intricacies of modern employment, it’s crucial to stay informed about workers rights, especially those pertaining to contractors and the self-employed.

This is particularly pertinent in the context of disruptive companies like Deliveroo and UberEats. Their workers’ concerns about pay and conditions were amplified during and since the pandemic, when the popularity of such services shot up alongside the rise of the gig economy. 

Remember, being aware of your rights and asserting them appropriately can lead to positive changes in how we work. By staying informed and advocating for fair treatment, we can contribute to building a more equitable and supportive environment for all workers.

Written by:
Stephanie Lennox is the resident funding & finance expert at Startups: A successful startup founder in her own right, 2x bestselling author and business strategist, she covers everything from business grants and loans to venture capital and angel investing. With over 14 years of hands-on experience in the startup industry, Stephanie is passionate about how business owners can not only survive but thrive in the face of turbulent financial times and economic crises. With a background in media, publishing, finance and sales psychology, and an education at Oxford University, Stephanie has been featured on all things 'entrepreneur' in such prominent media outlets as The Bookseller, The Guardian, TimeOut, The Southbank Centre and ITV News, as well as several other national publications.

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