Preparing a leading luxury retailer for IR35 with an expert-led contractor audit

Luxury British department store, Harvey Nichols, works with a large and diverse pool of contractor talent, from IT specialists through to scenic painters for their window displays and models for their photo shoots. Harvey Nichols needed to navigate this complicated piece of employment law, without the risk of losing their talent or facing huge costs.

The challenge

With major changes to IR35 being rolled-out in the private sector, Harvey Nichols needed to audit and overhaul their contractor process. Despite the wide-ranging implications of the changes, like many other organisations, employees within the business had varying levels of understanding on this complex legislation and how it could impact their operations, so a programme was required to update their knowledge.

The business also faced a challenge when it came to how they had traditionally engaged their contractors. As hiring was undertaken by departments on the basis of demand, there was no central record of their contractor community which would help to identify everyone who would be impacted by the changing IR35 rules.


Harvey Nichols approached Brookson Group based on the breadth and flexibility of its services. Brookson Legal performed a full audit of its 95-strong contractor base, helping them to understand the outcome of each individual assessment and how it would impact their current contract, as well as giving them the tools to manage their contractor community moving forwards.

In addition, Brookson One’s Umbrella solution provided a way to transfer tax responsibility for those contractors who were found to be inside IR35, allowing Harvey Nichols’ contractor talent to seamlessly continue working with minimum disruption and additional administration.


Brookson Legal’s initial contractor audit found that a large proportion of Harvey Nichols’ contractors could be classed as inside IR35. This identified a need to make some major changes to the way they engaged with contractors in order to ensure they remained compliant moving forward.

While the postponement of IR35 means that these changes will not kick in until April next year, Brookson has prepared Harvey Nichols to manage contractors in full compliance when the time comes. The HR team can now use this time to educate managers, so that when they are recruiting, they start off with a clear understanding of whether the role is inside or outside of IR35. The centralised system for managing their contractor workforce will become increasingly important as the April 2021 deadline looms closer.

Thanks to Brookson I feel better prepared and more knowledgeable on IR35. Its experts have given me the tools I need to work with and advise my employees before they recruit someone, ensuring we are engaging with the right person, for the right role and in the right way – whether they are inside or outside of IR35. This is a huge step forward in terms of our own mindset – as we now understand why we must work with contractors differently in different roles. I would recommend other businesses start to think about this sooner rather than later to ensure they can continue benefitting from their valued contractor talent. IR35 doesn’t scare me anymore – we will be ready when it comes in 2021!
Caroline Hawker, Group Talent and Acquisition Manager

About Brookson Legal

Brookson Legal are a team of knowledgeable and experienced lawyers who specialise in IR35 and helping hirers of flexible workers comply with the law. Our unique combination of experience, expertise and credibility means that we are the obvious choice for hirers who want to assess their existing flexible workforce and get ready for April 2021, when changes in the Private Sector come into effect.

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