IR35 - The BBC's experience

As companies come to grips with the implications of IR35 on their use of off-payroll workers, it's worthwhile looking at the experiences of organisations that have already been through the process. The public sector encountered the more forceful application of IR35 more than two years before their private sector colleagues. 

Catherine Hearn, HR Director, Resourcing and Talent at the BBC spoke at the joint PageGroup and Change Associates event, IR35 and the Shape of the Future Workforce, about the broadcaster’s experience of dealing with IR35.

The BBC employs 120,000 off-payroll workers each year, and Catherine Hearn told the audience the corporation could not operate without them.


As a publicly-funded body, the BBC faced the change in legislation before those in the private sector. The challenges they encountered, including how they dealt with on-screen talent, were well publicised.

As Catherine succinctly put it, “You don’t know what’s about to hit you!”.

The BBC, which came under greater scrutiny than most, recognised that while superficially IR35 appears to sit with Procurement or Finance, it’s actually really about people.

“It’s about transparency, fairness and compliance,” said Catherine. “People don’t feel safe, so talk to them. Be honest. Be clear. Talk to them now”.

The BBC continues to use contingent workers in large numbers. It has worked hard to ensure it offers a compliant contingent workforce, and as a consequence, freelancers feel reassured, engaged and committed.

The lesson is that employers can continue to use off-payroll workers to provide flexibility and tap into different kinds of talent, providing the requirements of IR35 are met.

For more details about how to avoid the risks and capitalise on the opportunities of IR35, download our research report, The Shape of the 2020 Workforce and the Impact of IR35. The report includes comments from other public sector HR professionals who have already been through the IR35 experience. 


Last updated: 14 Feb 2020