The Federation of Small Businesses is challenging the government to clarify the rules concerning the self-employed.

The organisation, which represents 160,000 small businesses across the country, has published its own White Paper setting out proposals for a guarantee of rights for the sector.

The Right To Be Self Employed has been published in response to attempts to pull the self-employed into 'employment' status, the most recent being the controversial legislation which required many contract workers to register as employees.

The FSB argues that a new act of Parliament, a Registration of Contracts for Services Act, should be brought in to mirror the Contracts of Employment Act.

Dr Bernard Juby, FSB trade and industry chairman, said: "The self employed have for many years seen challenges to their status, with a succession of governments attempting to pull them into employee status.

"The existing law is entirely unsatisfactory because of the uncertainties created by such legislation, a recent example being the Inland Revenue and the Construction Industry Scheme. It is time that the right to be self employed was enshrined in legislation, in order to prevent the tinkering with the system which is creating confusion and unfairness."

The FSB is sending its White Paper to the government and the Inland Revenue asking for responses.

Dr Juby added: "Rather than be consulted over proposed legislation, this time we are turning the tables and asking the policy makers for their opinion by carrying out our own consultation."

The Right To Be Self Employed proposes that the UK adopts an act similar to France, whereby the onus of proving that a person is not self employed should lie with the state, rather than the individual.

In France, a worker can register under a rule which starts with the presumption that the worker is self employed. The state then has to challenge that registration if it believes the worker is an employee.

The FSB wants a statute similar to French law, which is based on a relationship of permanent subordination between the contracted worker and the hirer of services.