If your girlfriend has her working hours defined (i.e. start time/end time not per week total) it'll be likely she'll fall into IR35 in the eyes of the taxman (i.e. a disguised employee which is what she seems to be).
Have a look at this:
IR35: find out if it applies
In this case the employer will need to take PAYE tax & national insurance etc from her and there will be no benefit for either from her being a contractor (apart from being easy to let go).
Working set hours is one of the big things the Taxman hooks onto, so this will be quickly noticed. I'd assume she is also supplied via an agency, or else this is another sure way to look like a disguised employee.
Look for the section "The Contract Review Service", she can anonymously give them details and they will tell her if she is going to be caught. If not they give her a reference number she can later quote if the year end thinks she may be caught up.
Usually the taxman takes a view you need to prove you are not an employee. I am a contractor (and a senior manager), and as such the following applies:
- I have no authority to act on behalf of the client (in my contract)
- I am contracted a certain number of hours a week (but not daily working hours)
- I can work for other clients (i.e. not exclusively for one)
- I can supply a suitable substitute
- All mentions of me in org charts, email signatures etc have my job as well as "Interim"
- I must have professional indemnity insurance cover, which I pay for, for work I do (and if the work went to external clients professional liability insurance)
I do though have:
- A contract
- A notice period (4 weeks either side)
- my own company (who invoices the agency each month, not the employer, and is registered for VAT etc)
If this isn't the case for your girlfriend you may find the taxman just sees her as a disguised employee and everyone loses. If the employer is unaware of this then it's a sign they're either inept or dodgy.
And as an actual answer, if she is truly a contractor/freelancer, she should take on additional customers as she can to build up a portfolio and client base, then edge the current one out as she gets better opportunities.