Last year the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee published a report calling on the Government to close the loopholes that allow “bogus” self- employment practices, which burden the welfare state but reduce the tax contributions needed to sustain it.

Most of the people working for organisations such as Uber, Amazon, Hermes and Deliveroo are not on the payroll, have limited workers’ rights and are paid for each delivery or “gig”. The Committee recommended a default assumption of “worker” status, rather than “self-employed”. The economist Mathew Taylor was also asked to produce a report on the status of such workers and suggested that a new category of “dependent contractor” should be established.

HMRC and the Treasury have now published a consultation into a thorough review of employment status.

 

Consultation on employment status

HMRC published a consultation on employment status on 7 February as a follow up to the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices.

Individuals and their employers have to know which employment status applies to ensure the right protections are applied – from the National Minimum Wage and holiday pay, to unfair dismissal protection and statutory redundancy pay.

Employment status also affects the taxes that an individual and their employer pay. It is therefore essential in maintaining a clear and effective tax base, with individuals and employers knowing what rates of tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) are applicable to everyone in their organisation.

The existing legislation defining an employee for both tax and employment rights ultimately relies on whether a contract of service exists. No further definition or clarity is provided in the legislation.

As a result, over time the courts have interpreted the legislation and developed tests to determine an individual’s employment status. These tests are contained in a number of key precedent cases, including a mixture of employment rights and tax judgments.

A possible solution suggested is to legislate a more detailed definition of employment incorporating the irreducible minimum core tests established by case law:

  • Mutuality of obligation
  • Control over the individual
  • Personal service
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