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Working as a Self Employed (“Sole trader”)

Working As Self Employed

Ship Shape Pay is an excellent way to maintain the maximum pay and flexibility that comes with self-employment, whilst staying compliant with HMRC rules. The main financial benefits are lower National Insurance contributions and the ability for us to offset expenses such as travel, food and clothing against your tax liability. We find self-employed workers enjoy a take home pay up to 15% higher than PAYE employees. Depending on your tax status Ship Shape will make gross payments to you with no tax deductions, or payments net of tax as required under CIS for construction workers.

Intermediaries legislation effective from April 2014 means that workers supplied though a recruitment agency and whom work under ‘Supervision, Direction or Control’ (or the right of Control) cannot contract as self-employed. The liability for false self-employment lies with the recruitment agency in this case, so they will often dictate whether a worker can contract in this way and will partly depend on the agencies contract with the end-hirer to whom the worker is supplied. In the specific case of the construction industry, Ship Shape is able to provide indemnity insurance to agencies for most skilled, qualified or experienced workers. Ask you agency to contact Ship Shape to discuss this opportunity.

Why choose Ship Shape Pay for Self Employed payroll ?

As with our umbrella payroll service, our fees for self-employed contractors may be the lowest in the market and we offer some unique additional benefits.

Minimum weekly margin:

Ship Shape Pay RACS Advance
£7.40 £23 £24

Benefits you get with Ship Shape:

Free company mobile MyShipShape online account Free personal tax returns
Free CSCS test


HMRC compliant

Ship Shape has passed HMRC reviews in 2009, 2012 and 2016. In addition we have been audited and approved by industry experts and tax accountants Saffrey Champness and legal counsel Brabners. We are BACS Bureau accredited.

Accident Insurance

We have arranged Public Liability insurance cover of £5 million, plus Accident insurance paying £300 a week income support for up to two years. All for just £2.99 per week

Free company mobile

Never pay a mobile bill again! We supply you with a Vodafone SIM to use in your current handset, providing unlimited minutes, unlimited SMS and 5GB of data each month, all free of charge.

MyShipShape online account is your own personal online account where you can access all your pay and tax history in one place. You can view your payslips here at any time during, or after, you work through Ship Shape. This is also the place to find the free tax return service questionnaire, payslip explanations and guide to making an insurance claim. You will be sent an email confirming your personal password to access the site.


The last thing you need at the end of the year is the HMRC chasing you for unpaid tax. It's our responsibility to ensure that there are no unpleasant surprises in the form of underpaid tax or fines due to incorrect employment status. We have a spotless record in this regard and passed a full HMRC compliance assessments in 2009, 2012 and 2016.

Should you or your agency wish you to contract with Ship Shape as a Self Employed worker, proper consideration of the 2014 Onshore Intermediaries Legislation is required as this prevents agency workers who operate under “Supervision, Direction on Control over the manner in which the duties are carried out” from being treated as Self Employed for tax purposes. Failure to meet these rules will leave the recruitment agency liable for fines and any deemed loss of tax. Ship Shape will analyse your role and require you to complete a questionnaire to establish your suitability. In the case of construction workers, Ship Shape is able to provide insurance indemnifying the agency against fines for appropriate roles, where our compliance guidelines are followed.

Four weeks free at each new job

Make Ship Shape Pay your personal payroll and take it with you when you change jobs. We’ll keep all your records in one place and charge no payroll margin for the first 4 weeks when you introduce Ship Shape as your payroll provider at a new agency/end hirer. This could save you £120 on payroll fees that you will otherwise pay if forced onto a new payroll service.

Referral bonus

We offer generous referral bonuses including:

  • £250 bonus paid where your new agency/employer decide to use Ship Shape Pay as a preferred supplier
  • £25 bonus for each new friend you introduce (up to £500 bonus).