IR35 and the importance of due diligence when engaging with a staffing agency

By Leanne Nutter
IR35 and the importance of due diligence when engaging with a staffing agency

Understanding your supply chain and the ethics and compliance of your agency partners is more important than ever. It has become vital to ensure that when engaging with an agency, representing your brand, that your values on ethics and conduct are reflected, and that business compliance can be clearly demonstrated.

Last summer it was a Sunday Times undercover investigation into modern slavery that found a big online fashion retailer paying its workers less than £3.50 an hour through its supply chain. Only weeks later, the same company was found operating a factory during lockdown with little to no social distancing measures or PPE in place. The result: an overnight tumble in share prices, over a billion pounds wiped from the company’s market value and considerable reputational damage. But it is not just modern slavery that clients need to consider when performing due diligence.

A very current concern to anyone engaging with agencies for people services, should be the changes in IR35 legislation, which will come into force in April 2021. The initial legislation, due to roll out in April 2020, yet postponed due to the pandemic, offered somewhat grey information on the subject of liability. A year on, and the message is clear, HMRC will travel up the supply chain to recover unpaid IR35 tax, which puts the end user of services (the brand client) at risk should the guidelines not be followed.

I have heard the question being asked, whether in ‘event staffing’ sole traders can continue to operate as self-employed, avoiding IR35 altogether, which is in fact only applicable to those operating a limited company. I believe this is a different problem altogether, as if a contractor who is not a Ltd. Company and working in a role that could be deemed “disguised employment”, then the client is at risk of being seen as the employer, now liable for unpaid PAYE, National Insurance and Employers National Insurance. This is the basis for the recent Uber case heard in the supreme court and won in the favour of the workers.

At Blackjack we have always been proud to run a large PAYE workforce and have spent the last 12 months preparing for these changes, this giving our client’s peace of mind that we are fully complaint.

Compliance doesn’t always sound like the most attractive pitch when presenting Blackjack’s credentials, but it’s something we are proud of, and we’re glad to see that it is getting more and more airtime, and not just with the teams in procurement.

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