Working to survive

A recent British Government commissioned review referred to the self-employed as a diverse group containing people "from billionaire entrepreneurs to taxi drivers working 90 hours a week simply to pay their bills." 

Good work is a well written, but optimistically titled, independent review of British working practices. "For those in society who struggle to make ends meet, work is a pathway out of poverty" it states, a point emphasised by the Prime Minister herself, in a speech at the launch of the report. 

Nobody seeks to define themselves as in poverty.  Moreover, definitions of poverty are obviously deeply contested, especially by governments, who do not want to define themselves as presiding over poverty stricken populations.  But if you have to work 90 hours a week, two jobs in one, simply to pay bills, then that leads to a degree of entrapment in that work and a sense of never being able to make any progress. We work to survive. 

Good work is short on concrete proposals, as the Government's response is to come later in the year, but one suggestion is the phasing out of cash in hand payments.  There could be some form of Government approved payment scheme, so customers could not only pay by card, but the self-employed trader's tax, national insurance and even pension contributions could be deducted at source. 

Many card payment schemes are available for the self-employed taxi driver these days, including those which operate on the basis of 2.75% per transaction and a one-off charge for the card reader, a sort of pay as you go system for taking card payments.  

Cash in hand is one of the few advantages of working as a self-employed taxi driver. You don’t earn much at all as a driver in this business, once all of the bills have been paid and sometimes not even enough to buy food without having to work beyond ten hours a day.  But people do usually give you a small amount of cash every time you do a job, so there is at least daily cash flow. 

In my taxi, you can pay by cash, debit or credit card, PayPal or bank transfer. Existing customers can even pay by cheque. All of the payment methods carry a fee which is paid by the already hard pressed self-employed taxi driver – 2.75% for card payments, or at the High Street bank, a monthly maintenance fee and 26 types of charge, for each transaction which runs through a business bank account. 

Switching to compulsory card payments will only increase financial pressure and push hard working self-employed taxi drivers even further towards becoming the working poor. 

By far the most popular customer choice is to pay by cash, especially for elderly customers, who make up the majority of day time trade in small town Oxfordshire. They should not be forced into a new method of payment simply to increase the Government’s tax take. 

As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 26 July 2017

  1. United Kingdom Government, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices, page 75, (PDF, 3.75 Mb), 11 July 2017, as consulted 25 July 2017
  2. United Kingdom Government, Prime Minister's Office, Theresa May's speech at Taylor Review launch, 11 July 2017
  3. Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices, page 78, (PDF, 3.75 Mb), 11 July 2017, as consulted 25 July 2017
  4. PayPal Inc., PayPal Here,  as consulted 25 July 017
  5. HSBC Bank plc, Business current account, Rates and charges, as consulted 25 July 2017