In June of this year, Mike Gibson, a former transformation director of Logica and Fujitsu, and now owner of his own company, Ethical Consulting Ltd, launched an appeal for cash donations to mount a legal challenge against the IR35 reforms in the public sector. The crowdfund target was £360,000.
Mr Gibson believed there were strong grounds for such a challenge as the new rules were iniquitous to many contractors working in the public sector, with some in danger of losing their homes as a direct result of the IR35 changes causing a slowdown in that sphere.
Seemingly drawing inspiration from Michael Paulin, the barrister who was appointed by the Locum Doctors Union and the Healthcare Professionals Union to overturn the NHS’s approach to IR35, Gibson considered that there were a number of avenues of complaint that could be explored, with human rights laws being one of them.
Mr Gibson is supported by entrepreneur, Andrew Merritt-Morling. Initially, they simply wanted pledges of regular monthly contributions rather than physical cash. If there were sufficient commitments to financial support, then they would create a site which would be completely transparent as to how the money was being used.
A few months on, a large portion of £11,500 raised has been spent on obtaining a number of legal opinions, two of which were in agreement on a potential line of challenge and which were completely independent of one another. However, Gibson has conceded that the courts may not be the route to overturning the public sector rules as the prospects of succeeding may not be strong enough. Undaunted, Gibson will examine other options as he is determined to succeed by any means possible. However, he remains open-minded about any future legal option but it would have to have strong merits before he would consider engaging a barrister, as he is mindful of not wasting donees cash.
Gibson’s immediate goal is to change the public’s perception that contractors are tax dodgers, and that real lives are being affected by IR35. Writing on LinkedIn, he said, “I need your stories about how IR35 has impacted your livelihood and life. Tell me the details of your situation and tell me how it has affected you.” Freelancers wishing to do so, and be included in a publicity campaign, should send a MS Word document to Mike’s e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. He has also urged contractors to share their tales of IR35 with their local MP as, in Mr Gibson’s words, “the more stories we have, the more we can create a critical momentum of pressure.”
I think all of us would wish Mike every success and lend our support, even if that is not financial.