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HMRC internal manual

Employment Status Manual

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HM Revenue & Customs
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Considering the evidence: task or assignment-based engagements

It is important to distinguish between engagements where the contract will end on completion by the worker of the specific task, assignment or project identified in the contract(s) and those in which the worker is engaged on a company project for a set period.

In the former, it is likely that, as the worker is engaged to complete a specific task or assignment, he/she cannot be moved onto other tasks and in that respect there will be an absence of (right of) control by the client over “what” work to do. If the other aspects of control were also absent, that would indicate a hypothetical contract for services.

However, where the worker provides services on a company project on a continuous process of giving support and maintenance for the duration of the contract(s), it will be necessary to establish what right of control the client has for example as regards prioritisation of daily tasks etc.

For example, a client may engage a worker to develop a website to certain specifications and the contract terminates when the website has been completed. That is quite different from a situation in which the individual has a general computer maintenance and/or support role within the client’s organisation.

This aspect was considered in the case of Dragonfly Consultancy Ltd v HMRC - see ESM7290, in which engagements spanned circa 3 years. Henderson J reviewed the Special Commissioners findings of fact that Mr Bessell, the worker, undertook work on a project on which tasks were allocated to him as part of a team, worked within specific timeframes and accepted the client’s reasonable directions. Henderson J concluded at paragraph 52 that Mr Bessell’s performance of his duties was subject to a degree of supervision and quality control which went beyond merely directing him when and where to work, and the nature and degree of control was on balance a pointer towards employment.

See paragraph 15 of the decision of Dr Avery Jones in the case of Netherlane Ltd v York (SPC457).