Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid hires a contractor


I’m beginning to think that Big Bad Boss is finally softening up a bit; he has approved getting another pair of hands to help with the annual compensation processes.

This year is a bit different; we have changed the calendar so that pay planning and bonus planning will be done at the same time instead of as separate processes.

Combining the tasks will undoubtedly save time for the managers involved, but for me and the local HR business partners supporting the process there will be a whole lot more hand-holding to do.

It is alarming to note just how inept our managers are at the simplest decision-making, and we really do have to stand over them and watch what they get up to. And I’ve still got benefits renewals to do.

I then discover that Lazy Susan is on leave during the critical period. Not that my colleague’s absence makes any real difference; she can’t be trusted with anything more than the simplest admin, so I can’t say I’ll even notice she’s away.

However, Big Bad Boss doesn’t seem to see her failings and her absence is an excellent excuse to get some extra support.

Working with recruiters

I reach out to my favourite recruiter. He is one of the few who headhunts me on an occasional basis; flattering my ego and letting me know there is life outside this company.

However, Basil is also on leave and some other guy, Jason, will call me back. It might be a good time to contract Snooty Recruity as I’ve heard they have all the best jobs; perhaps they have the best candidates too.

After I leave a message, I see that someone from that firm has viewed me on LinkedIn, but they don’t call me back. How insulting!

I call and leave another message, this time making it clear that I am a potential client not a potential candidate. Then they call me straight back, the recruiter’s voice dripping with honey. Ha. You are not like that when I’ve been looking for a job, I think.

I speak to Jason from our usual recruitment firm too. On camera, he looks like a teenager complete with acne. I don’t get the impression he will understand the nuances of our needs.

We also put an ad directly on LinkedIn, which proves much more successful. I have 10 decent resumes to review, all contractors specialising in compensation. I pick the most relevant to interview.

Safe pair of hands, maybe

First up is Andrea. She seems very confident, and she has run pay planning many times across many different organisations; she seems like a safe pair of hands.

Next, I meet Bobby. Bobby’s talents seem to be strong on the technical side, but he is not a very clear communicator. All he can mumble about is the complex pay models that he has done in Excel. Well, we already have a system for that, so I need someone who I can safely leave to talk our managers through the process.

Finally, I meet Don. When I ask a few questions, I get the feeling Don hasn’t done any salary planning in his life; all he has really done in his career is benefits administration and not much of that. It looks like he has just cut and pasted a few phrases from our job description on to his CV.

To be fair, using key words from the ad is the best way to get past our applicant tracking system, which has been designed to filter out as many candidates as possible. However, he doesn’t fool me.

So, I’ve narrowed it down to Andrea. There is only one problem. She has her own company and she would rather invoice directly than go on our payroll for a fixed term. No problem, or so I think.

However, my HR business partner doesn’t agree. She is not signing off any consulting purchase orders because of the IR35 tax changes in April. Really? But we have all kinds of contractors in our technology department. No, I am told.

Contractor complexities

They have all been moved on to fixed-term contracts on our payroll or they are now paid through an umbrella company. But surely, we still have suppliers who invoice direct? Only a very few because they must have a special contract based on milestones and an IR35 assessment.

So there is a solution, but the talent team don’t know how to do it. The department HR manager doesn’t know how to do it. I’m guessing they don’t want to learn, because having become super unpopular with the other departments who used to hire contractors directly, they don’t want to be seen to be breaking their own rules.

I’m pretty fed up with the ‘can’t do, won’t do’ attitude that pervades our people team, the so-called business enablers. I think of all the small businesses who will no longer be engaged by big companies who don’t understand the new legislation well enough to work within it.

Well, I’m set on Andrea and I’m not going to be put off that easily. Working through another HR manager, I get hold of the contract and a link to the assessment. Really, it is not that difficult. My cat could do it. Even, Lazy Susan could do it. Well, my cat could anyway.

I complete the assessment and the project is happily deemed outside of IR35. Andrea will be engaged for a specific project with very specific deliverables. She can bring in a substitute, if necessary, though I know she won’t as she’d have to pay them. She will be in control on when she works and how she goes about it (so long as the task is done).

Once I’ve done the paperwork, I get Big Bad Boss to approve it and send it back to local HR. It’s  sad but true that people find it harder to say no to him than they do to me.

Next time… Candid joins in the ‘great resignation’.