Public Sector Interims and Disguised Employees

Public Sector pay is in the headlines again this evening as the findings of the review ordered by Danny Alexander are published.

According to the BBC, more than 2,000 public-sector workers “could be avoiding the full rate of income tax through special contracts”.

The proposed remedy is to have anyone who is engaged for more than six months and earning more than £220 a day compelled to join the payroll.  And Mr Alexander wants this achieved within three months.

This is short-sighted and wrong.  Yet another in a long list of situations where the reaction of politicians is to create new laws rather than enforcing perfectly adequate existing ones.

Enforcing this remedy will deprive the public sector of the valuable skills, experience and flexibility that interim executives and managers bring to any organisation; skills and experience that are needed for a limited period that may well be longer than six months.  Driving change, transformation and transition often need skills for a limited length project.  That’s what interims do and they frequently do it at a senior, or board, level.

There is no point in rehearsing the arguments that interims are legitimate small businesses, here.  It ought to be obvious to those who pause to think beyond a knee-jerk reaction.

However, legitimate interim projects seldom run to more than two years in length.  According to Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight, some 40% of the 2,000 identified have been in role for longer than two years.  Why?  In all but the most exceptional circumstances, a role that runs for 24 months is surely “permanent” by definition.

The answer then is to ask why those in long-term roles, with long term responsibilities have been allowed to operate as independent businesses, when their business (of providing executive skills) is clearly not independent.  How did it happen, who authorised it where were the checks and balances?

Just don’t hamstring the public sector with new rules that deny it the flexibility and skills that legitimate interim managers and other freelancers bring.

The Institute of Interim Management has posted a response, here.


About Andrew Munro

An independent business consultant, interim manager and writer, Andrew operates through his company, Burning Pine Ltd (
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