While being a contractor gives you the freedom to set your own hours and choose the projects that interest you the most, you need to remember that there are many things that you need to take care of beyond the current assignments you're working on. These include, among others, sorting out expenses and making sure that you pay the right amount of tax. Another area that also requires great consideration is safety.
Here is a look at the health and safety issues that contractors ought to consider.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carries out a range of safety inspections, although the nature and frequency with which these are implemented will depend to a certain degree on the work you do.
Contractors in industries such as construction and engineering and/or who engage in high-risk activities are likely to be visited by HSE officials on a regular basis. You should expect a call if there has been a substantial change in your work conditions or new regulations on hazards have been implemented. If, however, you work in an office where there is a lower risk of accidents taking place, inspections might be conducted less frequently.
Failing to follow safety regulations not only increases the chances of an accident occurring while at work, but can also result in contractors being substantially fined by the HSE, so it is an area that really should not be compromised.
Generally speaking, inspectors will provide you with a written notice that they intend to conduct a safety examination, though you should always be prepared for a random spot-check to be carried out without any warning. Indeed, an inspection initiative carried out by the HSE in North London last July, discovered almost half of refurbishment construction projects visited did not meet basic health and safety requirements.
The regulatory body is a good port of call if you need advice about what safety practices you need to put in place; although getting in touch with organisations such as the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health can also prove useful in ensuring you pass safety inspections.
Working with clients
Regardless of the nature of your business, it's always a good idea to show prospective and existing clients that you have stringent health and safety measures in place. This may even put you in a better position of securing more contracts.
Before work begins, it's worth considering the responsibilities you and you client may have with respect to safety, so that both are in a position to assess what is needed to comply with the regulations. Here, you should consider what, if any, permits will be required. You may also wish to show customers what safety qualifications you have.
Other things that need discussing include what, if any, personal protective equipment will need to be used while you work and who will provide it. It is quite often easier for contractors to have their own gear and, in such cases, you should always make sure you get good-quality products that are capable of withstanding heavy usage.
Your own safety, as well as that of clients and members of the public, isn't something that you should cut corners with, although it's worth remembering that safety equipment purchased for business purposes can be claimed as an expense by contractors.
This means that you can claim back the tax paid on items such as hard hats and high-visibility jackets; however, it can be difficult for contractors to keep on top of administrative matters especially when they are busy securing and working on contracts. In such cases, it may be best to use an accountancy service provider such as PayStream that is able to offer a straightforward process for claiming expenses, leaving you free to concentrate on completing projects.
Even if you and your clients have comprehensive safety practices in place, there may still be instances when circumstances beyond your control result in accidents taking place.
Enlist the services of a good-quality umbrella company and you'll not only find that you can take out a package where your national insurance and tax contributions are handled for you, but you can also access various forms of insurance.
While the type and standard of protection you can get will differ depending on which accountancy and payroll organisation you choose, it is possible to obtain up to £2 million in professional indemnity insurance and £10 million in employers' liability cover.
If you choose to set up as a limited company, however, it will be your responsibility to make sure you have a sufficient level of insurance in place. In such cases, it's advisable to take some time to obtain quotes from a range of providers so you are able to secure comprehensive cover at a competitive price.
If you are confident that you will fall outside of the IR35 regulations and would like to minimise your tax burden, then you should be looking to operate as a limited company contractor. But how do you go about setting up a limited company?
If you're looking to become a contractor, then you need to consider the two main options open to you – operating as a limited company or using an umbrella company. However, you must also be aware that this decision may be taken away from you.
The 24-month rule is something most people have come across, but many will admit they do not fully understand what it is. However, it is particularly important and must be considered when submitting paperwork to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Working for yourself makes for an incredibly exciting career choice. Not only do you get the chance to set your own hours and choose the projects that excite you the most, but it enables you to operate in a highly tax-efficient manner. Being self-employed also potentially allows you to receive a significantly higher income in comparison to doing the same kind of work as a permanent full-time employee, most notably as you could off-set tax against the expenses that you incur.
Being a contractor gives professionals the freedom to select their own working hours and choose the projects they work on; however, with that comes the need to look after their own payroll and tax issues. With HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) set to introduce a new payroll reporting system later this year, now is the time for professionals to make certain they are aware of the changes this will entail.
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