There’s an interesting legal case that has taken place this week, that’s probably going to go to the Supreme Court, and it’s got nothing to do with Brexit or the Donald!
It’s also nothing to do with the events industry either, but it got my attention as someone who works on a contract basis.
Pimlico Plumbers have just lost an appeal in an employment status case with one of their self-employed plumbers, with the courts deeming that whilst not an employee he was a worker and entitled to workers rights.
With unions and lawyers claiming that a loophole around hiring self-employed staff has allowed unscrupulous employers to avoid employment rights, sick pay and the minimum wage, what does this mean for contractors and freelancers such as myself and many more that work in the events industry.
Now it goes without saying what the benefits of freelancing and being self-employed are when you need work to be flexible, however, not everyone is aware of the unwritten rules when it comes to hiring contract staff, or indeed what we as freelancers need to do to protect ourselves from questioning and problems later down the line.
One factor is that for a freelancer or contractor to be considered truly self-employed as a sole-trader by HMRC they should ideally have a minimum of 2 contracts, with 2 separate customers at any given time.
If you are working full time hours for one customer then HMRC may very well consider you to be employed full-time on a temporary contract, and not in fact self-employed.
The big difference here is who then holds the responsibility for your tax and national insurance liability, as self-employed contractors receive tax benefits and understandably there are some companies that would like to take advantage of not having the hassle of PAYE obligations.
Another thing to consider is that a customer or company cannot dictate how a freelancer or contractor conducts their work and where, obviously grey areas exist here and there are times that common sense will prevail, but the general rule of thumb is that if you want to work from home and do less hours you can and shouldn’t receive any barrier to requests to do so.
I consider a customer that demands you to be working full-time, is not flexible on where and how you work, and does not see that you are entitled to some basic rights such as minimum wage and sick pay is then absolutely taking advantage of the loopholes.
The most important thing to make sure of before committing to any contract, is that you have researched properly and are aware of yours and your customers rights before signing on the dotted line.
Whether you are self-employed, a worker or an employee, make sure that you lay out the conditions of your contract in your freelance agreement, and that it is agreed in advance, signed by both parties and then stuck to.
As freelancers it is our responsibility to ensure that we protect ourselves and our reputations, however, we also have a responsibility to protect our customers from any little surprises later down the line.
Until next time #eventprofs…