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IR35 Chronicles X

This is part ten of our serialisation of an IR35 enquiry. To access the previous parts please visit our IR35 Chronicles Index.

Three weeks after agreeing to meet with HMRC the appointment between Mr Turpin (DT) and BIG IT took place at the end client's offices.

Representing BIG IT was Ms Fiona Pilkington (FP), whom Turpin had been communicating with, and Phil Jacobs (PJ), Projects Director. Turpin was accompanied by his colleague, James Hind, as it was necessary for another Revenue officer to be present and also to take notes of the meeting. 

After exchanging pleasantries, Turpin thanked Pilkington and Jacobs for taking the time to meet with him and explained the reason for his request. He explained that HMRC was reviewing the relationship between BSOD Ltd and BIG IT during the period 2006 – 2009.

As part of their review it was necessary for HMRC to consider both the contractual and actual working arrangements that existed between the two parties.  Turpin reiterated his thanks to Ms Pilkington for providing him with a copy of the upper level contract between BIG IT and Opportunity Knocks (agency). He said that this had been most useful but nevertheless he needed to understand how the contractual terms were actually worked out in practice.

Turpin asked Phil Jacobs whether or not he knew Neil Down and had any knowledge of his work during the period 2006 – 2009. Jacobs responded by saying that he had heard of Neil but had never met him and was vaguely aware of the services he had been undertaking for BIG IT.  What he had gleaned about him had been passed on to him by his Project Manager, Graham Hargreaves.

He went on to explain that he and Graham would meet once or twice a week to discuss ongoing IT projects and from time to time Neil's name cropped up. Turpin said that it would have been beneficial therefore for Mr Hargreaves to have taken part in the meeting as he would have knowledge that could be crucial to his review. The suggestion however was rejected by the two BIG IT officials as they explained that it was company policy that only senior management were permitted to discuss company business with third parties.

The Status Inspector then opened up the questioning:

DT:  What is the company policy for engaging contractors?
FP:  BIG IT have many internal and external projects ongoing at any one time. Although the company possesses high level expertise in most disciplines, it is necessary, from time to time, to outsource some of this work due to volume of work and the deadlines which the work has to be completed by.

DT:  So, are contractors used to supplement the knowledge and skills set that BIG IT already have in-house?
PJ:  In the main, yes.

DT:  Would this have been the reason Mr Down was taken on?
PJ:  Most likely.

DT:  Do BIG IT always use agencies to source contractors and do you use any one particular employment business for this purpose?
FP:  The company finds it more cost effective and less time consuming to use agencies to find suitable workers. We use about 3 – 4 different agencies, of which Opportunity Knocks is one of these.

DT:  So what happens when an agency recommends a contractor for a job?
FP:  BIG IT insist that all agency recommendations are supported by an up-to-date CV. We also have our own skills checklist that we ask each agency to complete. We naturally provide the agency with details of the role we are seeking to fill and the qualifications and skills that we are looking for in a candidate. We expect the agency to interview the candidate to enable the checklist to be completed.

DT:  Would it be possible to let me have a copy of the skills checklist for Neil Down?
FP:  I will have to check my records. We don't tend to retain such information for any longer than 12 months.

DT:  Well if not, I would be grateful if I could have a copy of a blank one. Once you have decided on a candidate what happens next?
FP:  They are required to attend an interview with the relevant department manager and a member of the procurement team.

DT:  Did you interview Mr Down for his position?
FP:  I don't specifically recall interviewing him but that doesn't mean to say that I didn't.

DT:  Neil Down has told us that he was interviewed by the IT Director and Project Manager.
FP:  Quite possibly but there would have also been a procurement team member present too. The IT Director who originally interviewed Mr Down has since left the company.

DT:  When your company appointed Neil Down for the position would he have needed any training?
PJ:  Most unlikely because we are looking to match people with the right skills and professional qualifications with the tasks that need performing. Time is always of the essence, so we expect someone to be able to come in and hit the ground running.

DT:  So are you saying training is never provided?
PJ:  Only on rare occasions or if there is, for instance, a particular programme or piece of software that is unique to BIG IT and that the member of staff may not have been exposed to.

DT:  When Neil Down joined BIG IT would he have known what needed to be done?
PJ:  He would have been given details of the job when he applied for it and further details would have been discussed during the interview. On his first day, however, the Project Manager should have gone through the job spec. and Mr Down's responsibilities, with him.

DT:  Did Mr Down have to go through an induction course?
FP:  All new staff members have to go through the company's induction process whether they be employees or contractors, it's company policy.  

DT:  What does the induction course comprise of and how long does it take?
FP:  New staff are briefed on the company's internal rules and given a staff handbook. Instructions are also given about health and safety and other housekeeping matters. Normally the whole process takes about a couple of hours. Staff are then required to sign a form certifying that they have attended the induction.

DT:  Could you let me have a copy of the induction conformation that Neil Down signed please?
FP:  I'll check my records and forward you a copy in the post.

DT:  Is training provided to staff whilst they are working in the job?
FP:  We encourage all our staff in continuing professional development and keeping their knowledge up to date and therefore provide essential training support where required.

DT:  Would this extend to temporary staff?
FP:  If it was to the benefit of BIG IT, then yes.

Next week:  Down to the nitty gritty

By Andy Vessey

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