HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

ESM0540 - Guide to determining status: provision of equipment

If the engager provides any necessary equipment this fact will point towards the existence of a contract of employment. This is a general principle, which has been applied by the courts over many years. For example, see the judgment of the Privy Council in the case of Lee Ting Sang v Chung Chi-Keung [1990] 2AC at p.383.

However, it is only one factor to be taken into account in the context of the overall picture and other factors must also be considered.

Provision of equipment is of most significance when it is fundamental to the service provided and sufficiently important to affect the substance of the contract,.

For example, the fact that drivers provided their own lorries was a major factor in Ready Mixed Concrete (South East) Ltd v The Minister of Pensions and National Insurance (see ESM7030). The Court decided that the contracts with the company were contracts of carriage rather than contracts of employment. In R W Proffitt Ltd v Secretary of State for Social Security, television salesmen were found to be employed and one important factor in this decision was that they were supplied with cars by the employer.

But even here this factor may not be decisive on its own - particularly where it points towards employment. In Hall v Lorimer (see ESM7160) a vision mixer was found to be self-employed when the terms, conditions and facts surrounding his engagements were considered as a whole. This was despite the fact that the substantial and expensive equipment needed was provided by his engagers. Mummery J, in the High Court, considered that the provision of equipment by Lorimer’s engagers undoubtedly pointed towards the existence of employment but this was not sufficient, by itself, to outweigh other pointers towards self-employment that were present in that particular case.

Where a worker provides essential equipment/major items that are fundamental to the job to be done, this is a very strong pointer to self-employment. For example, if a lorry driver provides a lorry, that may be sufficient to make the contract one of carriage rather than employment. Where under an agreement with a taxi operator, the taxi driver provides the cab then he or she is very likely to be self-employed.

However, little significance (in either direction) can be attached to the provision of small tools where it is customary for them to be provided, whether employed or self- employed. Examples include tradesmen such as carpenters who commonly provide hand tools and chefs who commonly provide knives, whether they be employees or self-employed. It is also common for employees to use their own cars for the purposes of their employment.

Equipment provided by workers in the Construction Industry

A worker who is required to, and does, provide major items of equipment, which are a fundamental requirement of the contract, can be distinguished from a worker who supplies only hand tools.

It is becoming increasingly common for both skilled and semi-skilled workers, within the construction industry, to supply power tools such as drills; saws; nail guns; angle grinders; planes; routers etc. The provision and use of power tools is usually the personal preference of an individual worker and it can be common for workers to provide such tools irrespective of whether they are self-employed or employed.

Whilst the purchase of power tools can vary in cost, and can, in some instances, represent a significant personal outlay to an individual, no monetary figure should be attached to the provision of such tools, solely as a means in determining this factor. Each case must be viewed on its own merits.