I have a "good" but so far boring corporate job (Sr. PHP dev) in a german pharmaceutical company, at Argentina, with good benefits (gold health insurance, 3 weeks vacation, paid lunch and snacks).

I have an opportunity to work for an UK, London-based small company, remotely as PHP Dev + DevOps, something that I would love to do. But they want to hire me as contractor. Basically as freelancer, but they want me to stay working from 9.30 to 18.30 (UK time). They don't give me paid vacations, or sick leave, neither Health Insurance. They also offered me the same amount of money than my current job (they benchmark the living cost of the local country).

So, they want a good developer (interview was somewhat hard), foreign (to cost less), full time, as contractor/freelance (it should cost more as you don't have any infrastructure and legal rights), but paying the same as in the local country, without any benefit.

(for the record, they offer me $2000 pounds/month (24k/year) for the Jr. DevOps role + SSr PHP developer, a role that in London is paid an average of 50k pounds for experienced people)

This is a role I would love to do (as I love GNU/Linux and automation), and I know I will learn a lot and it would open me more doors as Semi Senior DevOps for better paying companies.

But are these details that I posted a red flag? I know that in US and Argentina it is illegal to mask a full time employee as a Contractor and not giving him any rights, but in UK?

  • 3
    To anyone thinking of closing this as "legal advice": I'd say this falls under "stuff which should be known by a competent HR manager" and is therefore on topic. It's a very common question, particularly in the IT industry in the UK. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 6:37
  • I've deleted your second question here: we can't decide what you should do. You can re-add it if you want to, but it will increase the chance your question is closed. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 6:39
  • @StephanBranczyk Thanks for the advice. It is a small company, it has many years, at least 7, they say its more.
    – anon
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 13:56
  • Nine hours a day is too much. It's a non-starter - forget it.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 20:34
  • That doesn't sound like a great deal. Certainly not a deal I would even entertain taking. But there's nothing in what you've said to suggest anything illegal; there isn't even anything sufficiently suspicious in what you've said to warrant the expense of consulting a lawyer. This boils down to "the job doesn't pay very well". In the UK there are some laws in place to prevent the dishonest practice of laying off full-time staff and then re-hiring them as contractors. Maybe that's what you're thinking of. Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


I'll just talk about the money: $2,000 a month for a developer is absolutely ridiculously low. They are trying to exploit you. You may have seen £50K a year for a position as an employer in the UK (which means the company actually has to pay significantly more), for a contractor a rate of £350 a day is very cheap. So they are offering you a quarter of a very cheap UK contractor rate.

This is not a red flag. This is a "they are a bunch of criminals that want to exploit you" flag. Whether it is legal or not is quite irrelevant.

  • £350/day is about what my employer would pay for (.NET) contractors in West Yorkshire. Maybe a little bit more, but it's not a completely unreasonable rate. Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 9:20
  • To follow up 400 - 450 per day would be a standard rate for a London based developer maybe a bit less if it was for a 12 month contract Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 10:34
  • I know it is low, very low. Would the experience be worth the risks?
    – anon
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 13:50
  • Just to mention that the value is the same that is paid in my country, in local currency
    – anon
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 13:57
  • @PhilipKendall In case there was a misunderstanding: £350 a day is cheap (well, I'm near London). $2,000 a month, which the poster is offered, is completely unreasonable.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 15:46

Yes, it is illegal to treat someone as a contractor when they are really an employee. However, there's nothing in what you've posted that would necessarily make you an employee under UK law; there are no fixed definitions, but it's based on the "smell test". Some things which are commonly looked at by HMRC for IT workers:

  • Do you have the right of substitution? i.e. does it have to be you personally providing the service, or can you get someone else to do it?
  • Who is providing the equipment you're going to use - laptop, Internet etc?
  • Do you have income from sources other than this employer?
  • 1
    I suppose the "fixed working hours" is also part of the smell test.
    – MSalters
    Commented Jun 26, 2017 at 10:41

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