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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

Guide to determining status: length of engagement

The length of engagement is neutral in determining the employment status. However, in general, the longer the engagement the more likely that it will be a contract of service and the shorter the engagement the less likely. This is not down to the length of the contract itself, but because the other factors are more likely to indicate this to be the case.

For example, the longer the engagement the more likely that the engager will want to, or need to, exert significant amounts of control over the worker, a significant pointer towards a contract of service. In an engagement lasting for several months the engager may want a right of control because of a need to move the worker between tasks. Additionally, the worker may become integrated into the engager’s organisation in a manner that is indicative of employment. The approach to the work may also be less business-like and the personal factors are likely to be less significant.

Conversely these factors are less likely to be present in a short-term engagement. There may be less control exercisable by the engager particularly if the worker is taken on to undertake a specific task. It is less likely that the worker will become integrated into the business. Personal factors may be more significant and there may be a more business-like approach.

However, it is always necessary to consider the employment status factors in every case and then paint the whole picture. The principles set out above apply to casual, temporary, part-time or short-term workers as well as to those working on a full- time basis. The result could be employment, self-employment or a combination of both.

Where there are a number of separate short engagements with different engagers, then this could point to self-employment but the length of engagement alone is not sufficient to determine self-employment. Where work is offered and accepted occasionally and irregularly there is unlikely to be a continuous (or ‘umbrella’) contract of employment. Instead, each engagement may itself represent a contract of services or a contract for services.