The Problem With Volunteering

I cover this in detail in the lectures but it is well worth mentioning again just in case.

As a contractor you are brought in to tackle a specific issue or carry out a specific role. In an effort to appear helpful or possibly a harmless request from a manager may lead you into hot water.

Here’s how and why…

From a tax point of view, you are not an employee if you are brought into perform a specific role. It can be more complicated than that but that is the general position. The minute you begin to perform duties outside those agreed in your contract (which you had carefully drafted by a lawyer to avoid these issues) your may have the appearance of a general employee as far as the tax office is concerned.

Also, if you are not insured or qualified to perform this function then you may be personally liable for any mistakes. Take cabling for example. If you are a server technician but are asked to stay behind one evening to help with a cable install you could easily break an existing cable by accident or mistakenly cause another issue.

The pending investigation will find you at fault and liable and your insurance only covers you for server issues. To add to your problems, a tax investigation holds that because you are making yourself available for non-contracted work you are an employee and owe them 25% of your business income for the year.

Oh dear.

Paul Browning

11 Responses to “The Problem With Volunteering”

  1. What a great article. Who would have thought that trying to be helpful and nice could land you in so much trouble. I for one will think twice next time before I do anything outside of what I am contracted for.

  2. Wow, being a good samaritan really sometimes can be a drag yeah?

    I find it really helpful to put everything on paper, no matter how trivial it may sound. Being helpful really is a wonderful thought in itself, but the legalities involved should be minimized. That is why I think as much as possible disclaimers should be written right away.

  3. sometimes it pays not to help at all. Not to promote being self centered, but if your just gonna sue me for being helpful, why do it at all? its not like your gonna get fired for not doing something not in your contract. Then again if you wanna leave a good impression you have to do it right? Disclaimers would be nice so liability can be minimized.

  4. I have been guilty of this many times. Trying to help and got my arm ripped off.

    Example 1:

    I started my present job as a prison teacher on a sessional-tutor basis, ie, paid hourly. When the other ICT tutors left I agreed to teach the class. I was paid for 7.25 hours/day but I was working 12.5 hours plus working weekends and late evenings. I was only paid to teach but ended up teaching, coordinating exams, ICT technician (looking after the network), and sort of prison IT guru. Anything to do with IT – get Faruk.

    Example 2:

    I finished work once and just as io walked thorugh the door I got a phone call. The network had gone down and it must be my fault! it was Ramadhan and I was fasting so tired and hungry. I agreed to go in and sort it out. Took me 5 hours altogether.

    Did I get any thanks? NO!!! Never!!!

    When i asked them to pay for my MCSE I got “you’re only a teacher and this isn’t part of your remit”! i decided never to help out again (although I have done on some occassions – idiot).

    I had save the prison £45K as they didn’t need to pay for a maintenance contract.

    Nowadays, I will not do any IT work unless they want to pay me at least £40/hour!

    However, I am still guilty of working several hours unpaid at weekends. Also, I should get 1 hour/day for lunch. I take a max of 2 hours/week and work through lunch as I wouldn’t be able to get my work done.

  5. People make the biggest issues with the tiniest things these days, even something as simple as helping out can land you in jail.

    its ironic, in the movie ” the incredibles” Mr. Incredible saves a man who jumps off a building on purpose. The suicidal filed a suit against mr. incredible outlawing all superheroes.

  6. its real funny these days you can’t show off by being helpful. Every thing and anything now needs “qualifications” and “Liability”. I think its just another way of getting money. Too many times we get sued for the littlest of things. And your actually stuck in between when your boss asks you to do a job your not even qualified for.

  7. Oh dear indeed! On the liability side, one does need to use common sense in accepting tasking outside of one’s expertise and/or outside the scope of the liability one can accept. A very good reason NOT to learn on the job in these settings. On the other hand, there’s a natural desire to be cooperative and to go the extra mile, when one can, and to add value to the customer. With a little forethought we can make the right decisions.

    • ] I agree that it’s natural to want to be cooperative and help those around us within our ability set and knowledge. I wouldn’t want to stop doing that. But to step in and take over a job outside the scope of the contract – I can see how that could cause all kinds of liability issues. And even have tax implications if done for a long enough period that the contractor is acting just like an employee. It’s a dilemma.

      • New to this blog. Interesting reading! So, it seems it’s worth thinking about how to handle this situation before you begin a new contract. Think about where to draw the line and how to respond nicely if asked to do something you fell that you should not do.

  8. Whether you’re a “permanent” employee or a contractor or subcontractor, the person or organisation paying the wage expects you to keep your attention solely on the job you’ve been hired to do.

    Iincidental time for handling personal business (an appointment with your physician perhaps, or a telephone call to check on a family matter) is seldom if ever intended for running a business on the side.

    Tp maintain your reputation for both aspects of your business life, the best rule of thumb is to engage in the side business strictly on your own time, engaging tools or other services (such as the call taking company Paul mentioned) to help.

  9. I’m not a contractor, yet, but I work with someone who has been on a long-term contract for over a year, and who did an internship in the group before that. Not only do they behave just like all the employees, they are treated that way by the supervisors. On one hand, this is fine for us working here. On the other hand, I can see the situation could be a cause for concern since as a contractor this person does not receive all the “benefits” that employee receives.

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