Annual Survey Report 2022

Insights into the opinions and experiences of the UK's contractor workforce and the businesses which engage them. Access the results of the Qdos annual survey. 

Each year we regularly ask our customer base for their opinions and experiences of the key issues impacting their lives as independent workers.

2022 brought some normality back to the self-employed community after two years suffering the impacts of Covid-19 and the embedding of IR35 reform in the private sector, one of the biggest changes for contractors in recent years.

In this report, we obtain insights from the UK’s contracting workforce as well as the businesses which engage them.

Download the free report to find out more.


Annual Survey Report 2022

Download your copy of the most recent Qdos annual survey.

Being self-employed in 2022

The impact of IR35 reform on contractors

The introduction of the off-payroll working rules in the private sector (2021) and public sector (2017) continue to affect the contracting landscape.

However, perhaps surprisingly, our study suggests the impacts of reform were not as severe as anticipated in 2022, with 80% of contractors securing roles outside of IR35. As a result, most contractors felt confident about their business prospects going into 2023. This high percentage may however simply be because many contractors have gone PAYE or are no longer contracting.


Understandably, though, there are some lingering fears. More than a third (35%) of contractors cited IR35 as their most pressing concern – ahead of issues relating to the cost of living crisis (32%) and incoming tax changes this year 

Repeal of IR35 reform

After the resignation of Boris Johnson, and a summer-long leadership contest, there were two candidates for the position of Prime Minister: the former Chancellor, Rishi Sunak – who oversaw the implementation of IR35 reform in the private sector – and Liz Truss.


The latter was eventually appointed Prime Minister in September. Despite the suggestion that she would launch a review into IR35 reform, 94% of contractors we surveyed at the time saw this as nothing more than an empty promise.


And while many in the independent workforce were ambivalent about Truss’s appointment, they were soon to be overwhelmed. At an emergency budget to address the cost of living crisis, Truss’ Chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, Kwasi Kwarteng, announced the repeal of IR35 reform all together, alongside a host of other tax-cutting measures.


Despite the positive reaction from across the industry, it took less than a month for the government to reverse its decision, both on IR35 reform repeal, and on Truss – Sunak was installed as Prime Minister and the repeal was cancelled by his Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt.


Now, only 7% of contractors are confident that IR35 will be repealed in the future, with the majority feeling much more pessimistic; 43% are ‘not at all’ confident and 39% are ‘not very’ confident. Just 2% are ‘very’ confident, with 11% on the fence.


The U-turn on the repeal was a low point in a politically turbulent year, driving down contractor confidence. As a result, 65% of contractors believe no political party represents their best interests.


In the event of a snap general election, 25.7% of contractors indicate that they would vote for Labour, and just 14.3% would vote Conservative. 18.7% would abstain from voting altogether.


Despite the low level of confidence in a future IR35 repeal, there are reasons for optimism regarding the legislation.

With more businesses in a position to apply the rules and act compliantly, eight in ten contractors were able to secure a contract outside the scope of IR35.


69% of respondents are currently engaged outside IR35. 16% are operating via an umbrella company while the remainder of respondents are either inside IR35 (4%) or not in contract at all (11%).

Alongside this, just 19% of contractors found it easy to find roles outside of IR35, compared to 44% who found it difficult – and 61% of contractors don’t believe it will become any easier this year.

While IR35 itself presents challenges, HMRC’s controversial Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool has been condemned by contractors, with our respondents giving the tool an average rating of 2/10.

Even so, 40% of contractors are ‘indifferent’ to a client using CEST to reach a status determination, and 18% would have ‘no issue’ working with a company which used CEST. However, 33% of contractors ‘would prefer not to work with’ companies using CEST, and 9% ‘would not work with’ such clients. 

Business performance

While almost a third of contractors (33%) said that 2022 was a successful year for their business, a slim majority (55%) said that performance had been consistent, rather than an outright success.

12% of respondents, however, reported that their business performance had been poor. For this segment, IR35 reform was cited as the main contributory factor by 61% of contractors.


40% of businesses reported a drop in earnings year-on-year; with a decrease between 0-25% for the majority (57%) of respondents. However, year-on-year earnings remained stable for 21% of contractors, with 39% reporting an increase.


And while more contractors overall reported a drop in earnings, these workers can still command favourable average day rates; a narrow majority (52%) are earning between £500 and £749 per day, with 26% charging between £251 and £499 per day.


At the time of the survey (November 2022), most contractors (56%) were working with the same client as they were in 2021. While this may demonstrate a reluctance to switch projects as a result of economic uncertainty, it also indicates stability and the value delivered by these workers.

Currently, 45% of contractors rely on their personal networks and referrals to find new clients and secure projects, while 23% find new contracts through recruitment agencies. A little under one-fifth (19%) use LinkedIn to secure new clients.

With this in mind, 2023 holds promise for the majority of contractors; 44% are ‘fairly confident’ and 13% are ‘very confident’ about their business prospects. This optimism is tempered, however, with around a quarter of respondents ‘somewhat’ (21%) or ‘very’ (6%) concerned about their business prospects this year.


With this in mind, 2023 holds promise for the majority of contractors; 44% are ‘fairly confident’ and 13% are ‘very confident’ about their business prospects. This optimism is tempered, however, with around a quarter of respondents ‘somewhat’ (21%) or ‘very’ (6%) concerned about their business prospects this year.

The popularity of umbrella working has continued to rise since the introduction of IR35 reform in both the public and private sectors. However, our study indicates that contractors rarely choose to work this way. Umbrella working is often enforced, with 92% saying that it’s a requirement of the client.

57% of contractors spent between 75-100% of their time engaged via an umbrella in 2022, with 55% reporting that their time spent working via an umbrella company has increased year-on-year.

Just 1% of contractors work via an umbrella to benefit from the employment rights and security it provides; operating through an umbrella company is the preferred way of working for just 1% of contractors, too.


Download the full report

Have a question?

Book a discovery call with our team to find out what we can do for your business today

Prefer the old fashioned way?

Call our team on 0116 478 3390 or email [email protected]