“Treat contractors like the trades” advises Scottish recruitment experts.

Avoiding hysteria.

Recruitment experts at Core-Asset Consulting have said firms can avoid a lot of worry around IR35 by ensuring genuine self-employed contract staff are treated “akin to a tradesperson carrying out work on your home”. Their advice comes ahead of April’s introduction of controversial reforms to the off-payroll working rules, commonly referred to as IR35.

A recent survey found four in ten businesses are considering phasing out contractors when the legislation is introduced. Scotland’s critical financial sector, which has seen a major move towards the use of interim, gig-based specialists – is being braced for the changes.

“Despite the clamour, in truth not a whole lot is changing to the rules that determine whether an individual providing contractor services should be deemed and employee or not,” said Mike Stirton, director of interim, temporary and contract work at Core-Asset Consulting. “What is changing is who is liable if an individual is incorrectly operating outside of IR35 consideration. This is switching from the contractor, who is currently responsible, to the end hirer.

“This has meant hirers are having to educate themselves on the reforms pretty quickly to decide whether or not they are comfortable with continuing existing self-employment relationships or if the way forward should be a switch to switch to a PAYE payroll model.

“There is a lot of advice and tools circulating online that can help firms with this decision but in truth they are time consuming and often the hirer finds it difficult to answer the questions they pose with confidence due to the complexity of how the subject is presented,” he says. “One piece of advice we like to give to our hiring clients is to think about their contractor as having a similar relationship to their firm as that of a tradesperson carrying out work in their home.

“If they are comfortable with the individual getting a specific job done, whether this be fitting a radiator or managing a financial reporting project, under their own steam, at their own risk, in their own way, and indeed with their own team, then there is likely to be little issue with them being a bona-fide self-employed contractor in the eyes of HMRC, operating outside of IR35 consideration.”

If, on the other hand, they are uncomfortable with this approach and would prefer to ‘hover over the shoulder’ of the individual telling them what to do, how to do it, where and when to do it and who should do it – then, says Stirton, they need to consider looking to a payrolled PAYE resource.

With close to 20 years’ experience in temporary recruitment, Mike joined Core-Asset in 2011 to establish Core-Asset’s temporary and contract division that provides contractors and temporary hires within the financial services sector. 

He added: “We are seeing wildly different responses to IR35 from firms within Scotland’s financial sector, with this discrepancy mostly a result of fear and misunderstanding.

“Today’s workplaces require the use of genuine interim consultants – and that demand will not go away,” he said. “With the increasing tax burden, the cost of hiring interim talent is now likely to rise when a simple mentality shift from the end hirers, in how to engage with the self-employed may have been and will continue to be the simplest and most cost-effective solution.’’

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