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The Finance Department

Employment Status

Employment versus self employment is a complex area however there are some general rules that apply at the College. Employed staff are treated as employed for all their engagements. That is, any additional work by contracted staff will be paid under PAYE.

Contents of this page:
Teaching & Scholarship staff
Guest or Occasional Lecturers
External Examiners
Self-Employment
Research Appointments

Teaching and Scholarship staff

Teaching & Scholarship staff are always deemed to be employed and are never self employed; the College has received specific instructions on this from the Inland Revenue.  The contract is one of employment with the individual and not one of service with a company or sole trader.  The payment of wages to Teaching & Scholarship staff shall be made through the payroll system and be subject to PAYE and NIC.

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Guest or Occasional Lecturers 

The College takes its guidance from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in this respect.  A Guest Lecturer is defined as an external specialist who is invited to lecture on no more than 3 sessions in 3 consecutive months or an external specialist who is invited to speak at a lecture which is open to the public.  Guest Lecturers may receive reasonable expenses subject to the College’s financial guidelines.  This area is under review by HMRC and the College’s definition may change in line with their recommendations. Guest or Occasional Lecturers are paid gross through payroll if they teach less than three days in a term on a non examined subject.  The occasional lecturer form must be completed including a statement of how many hours or days the lecturer will undertake at the College over the academic year.

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External examiners

External examiners are treated as employed however this area is currently under review by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This guidance will be updated in due course. Casual or temporary employments are subject to PAYE tax and national insurance. Staff groups who are paid gross are - Occasional or Guest Lecturers and PhD Supervisors.

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Self Employment

In order to establish an individual's status please complete the questionnaire word format and return to the Financial Accountant.

Broadly self employment occurs when the College contracts for service, for example, consultants, translation, editing, transcription services, or web design services can also be classed as self employments depending on the terms of the contract.

It is very important therefore to record all details of the contract for service, and to follow the procurement procedures.  A purchase order must be completed.  When costing the work, it should be established whether VAT will be added by the contractor.

The details that should be recorded include:

  • A complete description of the service to be provided
  • Payment terms and completion conditions and any penalties if applicable
  • Timescales for completion

In cases where the contractor is self-employed, it is advisable to agree in advance:

  • where the work is to be carried out
  • whether the named individuals are to carry out the service
  • whether any substitution of named staff is allowed
  • whether expenses are reimbursed or included in the quote
  • who monitors the delivery of the service and how that is carried out
  • who meets any additional cost if the work were for example to over run

These details should be attached to the contractor's invoice when forwarded to the Finance Department.

In case of doubt as to the nature of the engagement the Finance Department will provide advice. In cases of dispute as to employment status, HMRC opinion will be sought and prevail.

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Research appointments

Where appointments are to be made to research projects or to other activities funded by outside sources, no post shall be filled unless the Director of Human Resources is satisfied that the funds have actually been received or that the funding agency has entered into a commitment in writing to provide the funds.

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Finance Department, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX. Departmental Office tel.:  020 7380 3145, fax.: 020 7380 3221