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IR35 and teamworking

freelancesupermarket.com newsroom

RSS 26 May 2009
Owner managed knowledge workers that can’t work autonomously in an engagement may worry about compromising their likely IR35 compliant status if they work with a hirer’s staff or in a project team. The key to team working lies in understanding the IR56 control guidelines and to work in the right way.

You must always perform deliverables, not just provide an applied skill set that always or mostly depends on hirer-produced work, which may comprise individual tasks and duties, under hirer supervision. 

My own definition of a deliverable is a whole piece of hirer-dependent work that your company owns and produces. Deliverables require your expertise and usually comprise one or more of these components: giving advice; transferring knowledge, applying your own methodologies, procedures and practices to your own specialism.

Now ask yourself the following:

1. Is my company’s specialism capable of providing deliverables for any hirer, on-site or off, if I perform all or most of the work personally?

If you answer yes to question 1, you pass ‘go’ on the what test under the IR56 guidelines. Now you enter the arena of potential IR35 compliance. Now answer question 2:

2. Has the hirer actually briefed me to perform deliverables on this engagement and without unnecessary interference? 

If the answer is yes, you should pass the what and how tests that allow you to work in a team or elicit hirer staff support. If you don’t, your deliverables may not be completed at all, or on time or to a satisfactory standard. 

For example:

a) You’re briefed to perform an audit to gauge policy issues that may be affecting staff motivation and retention. Although the hirer provides you with staff names you are charged with compiling feedback questionnaires, interviewing staff, analysing the findings and writing a report.

b) You’re a change management expert briefed to provide a workable change plan. You need to consult and work with business unit stakeholders to understand the risks associated with dependencies and change resistance. 

c) The Programme Manager invites you to weekly status meetings. You want to go to keep abreast of the programme team’s work, raise issues and align your work to project milestones.

These are essential and, therefore, reasonable and justifiable examples of working in a team or eliciting staff support. But bear in mind that your likely IR35 compliance status rests on the whole picture for each engagement, not a tick box approach that applies to all of your engagements.

Which of the two statements below inform your current understanding of team working? Always aim for the first and avoid the second.

Statement one:
“My company needs hirer staff support to overcome obstacles that would otherwise halt or obstruct the completion of my work. Using my helpers or a substitute wouldn’t be any use because they would need to elicit the same staff input too. All other business suppliers would work in the same way, no matter what size they are."

Statement two:
“I sometimes share my work with other team members, whose input is non-essential but they save me time. Sometimes I help them too, if they’re really busy. If I refuse to muck in, like the others do, I will be a poor team player. Besides, I need to make up my hours when I’m not busy and it’s nice to make a few extra quid by putting in some overtime.”

Finally, don’t get complacent on longer engagements. List all of your deliverables before your engagement starts, and renew them for contract extensions. Then start as you mean to go on by resisting hirer attempts to share out or supervise your company’s work.

Bel Grant
Writer on Flexible Working and Recruitment

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