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Accept this one thing and the AWD ceases to have any meaning

Accept this one thing and the AWD ceases to have any meaning

I started a new contract this week, having had rather too long a break from real work. And not a moment too soon, to be honest. Apart from having an income stream again, it’s a lot more fun talking to intelligent people about real problems instead of chatting to the dog about where we should go walkies today. Not that he ever answers me, beyond a slightly lopsided grin and a frantic tail wagging session.

Which is rather how I feel about certain agencies over the last week or so.

Perhaps the stress of having to get up in the morning and go somewhere is getting to me, but I am getting increasingly irritated by the flood of emails from assorted agencies offering me work that is nothing to do with my CV. They obviously have my CV, or some version of it, since they get the name and email address right almost every time (apparently I am a Mr Wells according to one recent email). But hey, does that CV imply that I really can’t wait to go be a permanent change manager in Geneva for twelve months? Or sit on a help desk in Warrington on £20 an hour? (Gosh. Be still my beating heart…). Still, just like the dog, you have to pretend they understand what you’re telling them or run screaming in despair.

And that is why I am seriously worried about the upcoming Agency Workers Regulations.

PCG and others seem fairly confident that the regulations, which are aimed at ensuring temporary workers get the same protections as permanent staff after a short while, won’t apply to genuine contractors working through their own Limited Companies. While that may well be the case, I have a horrible feeling that the agencies won’t quite grasp the point. An industry that routinely confuses a senior Service Delivery Manager and sometime Head of IT with a Helpdesk worker in Warrington is really going to struggle with the concept that not everyone they place in a job wants to be protected.

Which means that rather than move the Agency/Contractor contract more towards a genuine business-to-business one, which would establish the true nature of the relationship with the end client, they will be telling everyone that you need to have even more draconian clauses in the contracts to reinforce that point that the contractor is not an employee of theirs, or the agencies, or anyone else. Honest. Cross my heart…

Which really is the wrong way to go.

After all, the more you try and nail the myth that someone is not an employee, the more HMRC is going to think you have something to hide. All those interlocking clauses about no rights to be implied and mutuality is not assured must be hiding something or why have them?

And anyway, I am employed by someone, in all meaningful senses; there’s this company that I work through that supplies all I need in the way of income and sick pay and holidays and pensions funding and the rest in return for me hauling myself over to Cardiff or wherever and doing my thing. OK, so I own it, but it is a separate legal “person” and operates totally in accordance with a whole pile of relevant statutes. Accept that it exists, and has a real purpose, and all this Agency Worker nonsense, not to mention IR35 itself, suddenly ceases to have any meaning.

If only someone could tell the agencies that…

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited

Image: No entry for big-haired cleaning ladies by lorentey

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