Contractors' Questions: Any IR35 risk to an attendance policy?

Contractor's Question: In an internal memo entitled 'Reminder for all Contractors,' my client has stated that remote or home-based working should be restricted to one day a week, and permission for it requested in advance. The desired effect is more of the workforce, including contractors, being available for face-to-face meetings. As a contractor sent this 'bums on seats' request, is my employment status likely to be affected, and does it push me towards IR35?

Expert's Answer: If this is a trend then it is a worrying one. As IR35 status is all about the reality of the working arrangements, then any sort of "employer" type
direction is not helpful.

Reminders about behaviour and conduct in my opinion do not sit well with the picture of the professional contractor in business on his/her own account. The best thing contractors can do is not give the client cause to raise these issues in the first place. In this particular case, having the freedom to choose hours and/or work from home is very helpful to show a lack of control, so why put this at risk?

In your circumstances, we should also ask what would be the client's next move or, more importantly, does the client in fact have (or think they have) the right to put a stop to this flexibility? The message for you, the contractor, is to show at all times that you are a professional business which will also serve to remind clients of the differences between professional contractors and employees and especially the differences in the levels of control. This approach will also be most helpful in the event of an IR35 investigation.

The expert was Kate Cottrell, co-founder of Bauer & Cottrell, an IR35 advisory.

Thursday 4th Mar 2010
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