Off-payroll reform: won’t somebody throw the public sector a bone?

Off-payroll reform: won’t somebody throw the public sector a bone?

Off-payroll reform: won’t somebody throw the public sector a bone?

Off-payroll/IR35 reform continues to be the gift that just keeps on giving for BD professionals in the recruitment sector. Following #IR35 yields the usual daily/hourly calls to action on LinkedIn, with most posts beginning with phrases such as:

“Attention private sector connections…”

“Calling all UK businesses…”

“Are you a hiring manager for a medium or large business?”

“To all my banking clients…”

If you are lucky enough to be a member of the intended audience for one of these attention-grabbing headlines then chances are you are just a paragraph or two away from an open invitation to a free breakfast/lunch/dinner or some choice canapés at the second-from-top floor of the tallest building in London/Manchester/Bristol/Leeds/Glasgow/Birmingham* (*delete as appropriate). You may even be a ‘circuit regular’ who has managed to get a solid three square meals a day out of these events over the last few months – in which case I can safely say you’re spoilt for choice by this point.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a bit of awareness-raising for the sake of prospecting (I am a commercial consultant after all) and I can honestly say if you haven’t been to one of these sessions then – aside from asking where the hell you have been – I would wholeheartedly recommend that you get yourself along to one (any one) ASAP. The changes are big (but not clever) they are costly and they are a bit scary – although not nearly as scary as some marketing teams would have you believe.

What’s been playing on my mind during the most recent onslaught of social media content (particularly when prefaced with the above statements) is the fact that no one seems to be sparing a thought for the poor old public sector.

I guess they knew they were the guinea pigs in all this. Three years is a long time for a pilot scheme after all. But it seems that people have missed/conveniently forgotten in all the noise that the 2020 reform is not a new chapter (literally, it doesn’t add a new chapter to ITEPA) but rather an amendment of the 2017 rules. Yes, the BIG change is the inclusion of medium and large businesses within the scope of the legislation but there are several significant, practical (and not-so-practical) amendments to the existing rules in the draft legislation that could provide quite the nasty surprise for all those ‘been-there-done-that’ public bodies as well.

Examples include:

  • A new definition of what constitutes a “status determination statement”
  • A requirement to pass the statement to the worker as well as to the first party in the chain in order to avoid liability (and the potential for split liability based on poor timings)
  • The timings and practical implications of the new “Client-led status disagreement process”
  • Additional transfer of liability provisions
  • The complete removal/replacement of the existing 61(T) provisions which, among other things, currently allow for notifications to be made “in the contract or otherwise” and which have been heavily relied-upon by many central purchasing bodies/framework providers to promote so-called ‘blanket assessments’ in an attempt to protect authorities from liability

Some public sector resourcing frameworks actually promote opacity in supply chains (perhaps unintentionally, perhaps not) while some sub-central buyers of contingent labour have been subject to policy u-turn after policy u-turn from their supervisory authorities (you know who you are). However you cut it, the controls that public bodies put in place in 2017 and beyond (usually on the advice of agencies/people like me – who have all now turned their attention to the shiny prospects in the private sector) are likely to be the very same controls that are going to expose them to financial and reputational risk under the new regime. And of course those rules are bound to change at the last minute anyway. 

Despite all this (if the language is anything to go by) no one seems to be inviting public sector buyers of contingent labour to sit in rooms with panoramic views alongside representatives from the big four/magic circle to discuss the future of SOW/ECM/TTM/DE as ushering in a new ‘golden age’ of contingent resourcing maturity. 

Or are you? (that’s a subtle invite for anyone offended by this post and my carefree lack of research to promote your altruistic nature in the comments below)

I know public bodies might not be able to offer your sales teams the same potential for instant commercial gratification available from non-regulated (and terrified) buyers in the private sector but maybe (just maybe) you could widen the net for your invites next time and spare a thought for the ‘forgotten’ when you’re booking  the bacon butties and the Buck’s fizz to be enjoyed at the top of the Shard.

PS – not it.

PPS – if you’ve been ignoring the public sector because you don’t think they have the flexibility to do things differently, or the necessary ‘burning platform’ to embrace genuine off-payroll engagement, then I would invite you to compare the following two sets of words/phrases and then reconsider whom you might want to be targeting if you are a purveyor of strategic resourcing solutions:

  1. Financial services. Recession. End of PPI. Programme cuts. Redundancies. Exodus.
  2. Brexit. Emergency budgets. Outcome-based procurement. Wholesale regulatory change.


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