Business leaders in Lancashire have backed calls for more support to be given to the self-employed.
The North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce has added its backing to a review saying self-employed people should receive more support in running their businesses.
The study, led by businesswoman Julie Deane, is calling for them to have similar rights to company employees, such as enhanced maternity privileges.
It said that the number of self-employed people now stood at 4.6m or 15 per cent of the UK workforce – an all-time high.
Babs Murphy, the Chamber’s chief executive, said: “We obviously take a great interest in businesses of all shapes and sizes but we also have an attachment to those smaller start-up companies.
“That’s because we run the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) New Enterprise and Allowance (NEA) initiative which helps people on benefits to start up their own businesses.
“Many of those new businesses that have been started are on a self-employed basis.
“Those founders were able to take advantage of the support on offer and it would be a huge shame if something similar was not available to others.”
The report said that self-employment should not mean that people are disadvantaged.
In particular, the report called on the government to consider increasing the maternity allowance paid to self-employed people for the first six weeks, bringing it into line with the statutory maternity pay that employees receive.
Dr Adam Marshall, the British Chambers of Commerce Executive Director of Policy, said: “Julie Deane is right: it’s time to sweep away the barriers that stop people from working for themselves. Her calls for the education system to focus more on the basics of enterprise, and for the self-employed to receive parental leave pay on the same basis as company workers, resonate with what we hear in business communities across the country.
“Slashing red tape and the burdens of tax administration would help not just the self-employed, but also vast numbers of small- and medium-sized businesses all across the UK.”