May orders employment status probe

The structures that atypical workers such as contractors use are set to be scrutinised in a new review of modern employment practices ordered by prime minister Theresa May.

To be led by the Royal Society of Arts’ CEO Matthew Taylor, the review will ask whether “current definitions of employment status need to be updated to reflect new forms of working.”

But the focus will likely extend from the likes of Personal Service Companies to the oft-floated Freelancer Limited Company, as a “diverse ecology of business models” is to be probed.

“Can we explore and promote new forms of enterprise as the distinction between owner, worker, contractor and consumer gets more blurred?” Mr Taylor, an ex-adviser to Tony Blair asked Saturday’s Guardian.

He also told the newspaper that he would be approaching the review with “an open mind”, but wants his team’s recommendations to help workers have “opportunity” and “control.”

Whether Mr Taylor is aware that the latter is a key determinant of employment status, the RSA chief executive does sound familiar with the IT contractors who his review’s recommendations might impact.

“There is a world of difference,” he said, “between the happily self-employed software consultant in Hackney and a worker on zero hours desperate for greater security and job progression”.

The same distinction is likely to be made in a separate but similar review of “modern engagement practices,” being run in the private sector by trade body PRISM and the Social Market Foundation.

“[There are] constant changes faced by contractors and employment intermediaries,” says the body. “Recently…, restrictions to travel and subsistence relief and proposed IR35 changes.”

Regarded as half of a four-fold attack on contracting launched at Summer Budget 2015, the restrictions and the changes may feature in one of the six chapters of Mr Taylor’s review, specifically chapter three; ‘Finding the appropriate balance of rights and responsibilities for new business models.’

“Within our flexible system of employment the same type of contract can have a diverse range of impacts on the people who use them,” he said, seeming to echo the concerns of political economist Will Hutton. “That the prime minister has chosen to prioritise the interests of the growing army of people working in new ways sends an important message.”

Editor’s Note: Related Reading –

OTS comes out against IR35 changes

Contractors' IR35 calendar: 2016/17

OTS tables sole-trader style PSC reforms

Simplicity still eludes employment status cases

When clients blur your IR35 status

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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