Steps to hire self-employed staff in the UK

June 25, 2024

As a small business owner in the UK, you may find yourself in need of additional talent and expertise to support your operations. Hiring self-employed workers can be an attractive option, offering flexibility and access to specialist skills without the long-term commitment of permanent employees. However, understanding the legal and regulatory framework surrounding self-employment is crucial to ensure compliance and avoid potential pitfalls.

Common questions arise, such as what obligations you have as a hiring organisation, and how to properly document and manage these working relationships. Navigating the intricacies of self-employment regulations can be daunting, this overview provides some essentials points to consider when using self-employed workers for your business. Taking the necessary steps can unlock the benefits of tapping into a talented pool of independent professionals while mitigating risks to your business.

Understanding Your Obligations to Self-Employed Workers in the UK

Unlike employees, self-employed workers operate as independent contractors and are responsible for their own taxes, national insurance contributions, and other financial obligations. This distinction means that businesses engaging self-employed staff have fewer administrative burdens in terms of payroll management and benefits provision.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to recognise that self-employed workers still have rights, and businesses must ensure compliance with relevant employment laws, such as health and safety regulations. Whilst hiring self-employed staff can offer flexibility and cost savings for small businesses, there are challenges to consider, from having clear contractual agreements, managing relationships with multiple contractors, to potential risks related to misclassification or disputes over employment status.

How to Hire Self-Employed Staff?

Individuals who bear the financial risk associated with their work, such as covering their own expenses and liabilities, are often classified as self-employed. For example, hiring a freelance graphic designer on a project-by-project basis where they use their own equipment and set their own schedules would typically constitute a self-employed arrangement. There are some key considerations to put in place when you hire these workers, including:

Defining the scope of work

Clearly outline the tasks the contractor is expected to complete, the goals of the project, and any deliverables that need to be provided.

Draw up a contract

The contract should include details about the scope of work, start and end dates, compensation amount, structure, and pay period, and termination guidelines. It should be written in clear, understandable language and tailored to the unique circumstances of the professional relationship.

Enforce deadlines and expectations

Make sure the contract includes clear deadlines for deliverables. Regular communication can help ensure that expectations are met and deadlines are adhered to.

Agree payment terms

Contractors are typically paid based on their own rates, which are usually negotiated at the start of the contract. The payment terms, including the amount, structure, and pay period, should be clearly defined in the contract.

Get an invoice

After the contractor has completed the work, they should provide you with an invoice. For your accounts it’s necessary to have an invoice for any payments made for services to ensure you’re keeping records correctly.

This invoice should include a unique identification number, the contractor’s name, address and contact information, a clear description of what they’re charging for, the date the goods or service were provided, the date of the invoice, the amount(s) being charged, VAT amount if applicable, and the total amount owed.

Do Self-Employed Staff Need a Contract?

While self-employed staff operate independently, it’s still essential to establish clear contractual agreements to define the terms of their engagement. Even though self-employed workers have more autonomy compared to employees, having a contract provides clarity and helps prevent misunderstandings between the business and the contractor.

A contract outlines the expectations, responsibilities, and deliverables of both parties, reducing the risk of disputes and ensuring a smooth working relationship. A well-drafted contract can help establish the self-employed worker’s status, confirming their independent contractor status rather than that of an employee, which is crucial for legal and tax purposes.

What to include in a contract

  • Clearly outline the scope of work, including specific tasks, deliverables, and deadlines.
  • Specify the payment terms, such as the rate of pay, invoicing procedures, and payment schedule.
  • Address intellectual property rights, confidentiality clauses, and any non-compete agreements to safeguard the business’s proprietary information.
  • Include provisions regarding termination, outlining the circumstances under which either party can end the contract and any notice periods required.

How to Pay a Self-Employed Worker?

When it comes to paying self-employed workers in the UK, businesses have several options to consider. Choosing the right payment method depends on factors such as the nature of the work, the level of predictability in the workload, and the preferences of both parties involved.

  • Paying self-employed workers based on hourly rates, where the worker invoices the business for the hours worked at an agreed-upon rate.
  • Use project-based fees, where the self-employed worker quotes a fixed price for completing a specific project or task.
  • Retainer agreements, where the self-employed worker provides ongoing services for a set monthly fee.

Setting up clear payment terms and schedules is essential for establishing a smooth payment process with self-employed workers. Businesses should outline payment terms in the contract, including details such as invoicing procedures, payment due dates, and any late payment penalties.

Can you pay self-employed workers cash in hand?

It is legal to pay workers cash-in-hand in the UK including paying for goods or services provided by self-employed people and other types of businesses. All payments to self-employed contractors should be properly documented through invoices and recorded for tax purposes.

It’s crucial to follow the rules for tax compliance and maintain transparent financial records. Paying workers cash-in-hand could be seen as circumventing these legal obligations and expose both parties to significant risks that can undermine the integrity and sustainability of the business arrangement.

Do Self-Employed Workers Have Rights?

Self-employed workers in the UK are afforded certain rights and protections under the law, albeit to a lesser extent compared to employees. While they have more autonomy in managing their work, self-employed individuals still have rights related to health and safety, discrimination, and contract termination. For instance, self-employed workers are entitled to a safe working environment and protection from discrimination based on characteristics such as race, gender, or disability.

They have the right to terminate contracts in accordance with the terms agreed upon in their contracts. To ensure compliance with relevant regulations, small business owners should familiarise themselves with the legal obligations towards self-employed workers. This includes implementing health and safety measures, avoiding discriminatory practices, and ensuring fair and transparent contract termination procedures.

Hiring Self-Employed Staff as a Limited Company vs. Sole Trader in the UK

Limited Company

Limited companies offer limited liability protection to owners, making them separate legal entities responsible for their own taxes and liabilities. However, hiring self-employed staff as a limited company may involve more complex legal and financial considerations due to the separate entity structure and compliance requirements.

From a legal standpoint, limited companies are required to follow company law and reporting requirements, which may include registering with Companies House and maintaining proper records of financial transactions.

Additionally, limited companies must ensure that any contracts with self-employed workers comply with employment laws, such as those concerning discrimination and health and safety.

From a tax perspective, limited companies are responsible for deducting and paying taxes on behalf of self-employed workers, such as income tax and national insurance contributions, through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system.

Sole Traders

Sole traders have simpler taxation and legal requirements but face unlimited liability, meaning personal assets are at risk. While hiring self-employed staff as a sole trader is less administratively burdensome, owners remain personally accountable for contractual agreements and legal obligations.

One crucial aspect is personal liability, as sole traders are personally responsible for any debts or liabilities incurred by their business. This means that engaging self-employed staff does not offer the same level of liability protection as hiring employees.

Do you need Employers’ Liability Insurance for Self-Employed Workers?

You are not obligated to have employers’ liability insurance for self-employed workers as these individuals are responsible for their own liabilities. Where there is an exception is with labour only subcontractors. These workers are employed by the business, typically by the hour, to perform short term tasks. In this instance, as an employer, you are obliged to have employers’ liability as a legal requirement.

Get Small Business liability insurance with Protectivity.

If you’re operating a business using self-employed workers make sure you have done your research ensuring you comply with laws and regulations.  While it may not be a legal requirement, having appropriate insurance can provide financial protection in unforeseen circumstances.

Protectivity’s small business insurance has been specifically created to support you in the event that claims are brought against your business. Public liability is automatically included and protects you if you’re sued by a third party; for example, for an injury or property damage suffered by a client or member of the public. There’s also Employers’ Liability for anyone with a team, ensuring that you’re protected against claims from workers who become injured or ill.

Find out more and get an instant quote suited to your needs.