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November 2016
Updated HMRC Ruling: Promo staff must be PAYE


It has long been a grey area as to whether promotional staff should be self-employed or on PAYE. Are they employees or do they set their own schedules? Do you determine their work day, or do they do that on their own? Is their place of work determined by you, or by them?

A lot of these answers depend on a campaign itself, rather than being a sweeping 'you' or 'them', and this has given some freedom for agencies to choose whether to hire staff as self-employed, or employees.

However, just recently, HMRC has clarified these rules within the employment manual and refer specifically to brand ambassadors and similarly related roles.

First they tackle the fact that many promotional staff work as actors, singers or models, by explaining that these roles are exempt:



Having clarified that models, singers and actors working as models, singers and actors, do not have to be paid under PAYE, they then tackle the subject of models, singers, and actors working as promotional staff:



As above, HMRC specifically state that promo staff undertaking activities such as "carrying out demonstrations", "keeping supermarket shelves stocked", and "sales promotion on manufacturers' stands…" is "therefore within the legislation".

If you're already using Watu as your software provider, making this switch is easy.

Firstly, within general>settings, you will see options relating to how you would like to allow your field staff to register with you:



Simply keep only the option for "staffers to sign up as Employees" ticked, and this will be the only option moving forward for registering staff.

It's worth noting that managers can always override this setting, so if you have a staff member who must be registered as self-employed, it's possible for a manager to select this on behalf of the staff member.

And what about those staff who have been self-employed, but now need to switch to PAYE?

Watu can help out with this, as our developers can change some system settings to 'sweep' your account so-to-speak, and change everyone to PAYE. As these staff members wouldn't have their payroll details entered already, it will set all these recently switched staffers to "payroll incomplete", meaning they can't be paid yet.

But again, there's a solution for this! Within 'payroll' there is a section called 'incomplete payroll', and clicking there will bring you to this page:



See that little 'request payroll data' button? Click there, and that will send an email to everyone who needs to enter their details in order to be paid. It takes care of the guess work and manual typing, so all you have to do is click a button.

Bonus: A helpful – and little known – tip for those agencies using PAYE

Our system asks for the payroll data that is also required by HMRC. We stick to their mandatory/non-mandatory questions so that the software is aligned with government regulations, but sometimes you may find that the system asks for something which you just don't need.

If you find that a staff member is marked as incomplete but you'd like to pay them anyway, here's how to do a system override:

  1. Click into the staff member's profile
  2. Click the menu (three lines) in the upper right corner
  3. Click 'payroll'
  4. Click 'edit'
  5. Click 'Admin Information'
  6. Tick the little box stating 'payroll data complete'


We know that going through a payroll switch and all of its consequences can be daunting, and we would like to be here to help as much as possible. Whilst we cannot offer accounting or legal advice, we would be happy to offer suggestions and help you along the way as you make the switch.

When you're ready to ask a question or get started, just click the 'tech support' button to reach out to the team.


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