DWP IR35 bill, women in tech – Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast

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In this episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna speak about the DWP’s IR35 tax bill, the Most Influential Women in UK Technology, and company culture

In this episode of the Computer Weekly Downtime Upload podcast, Caroline Donnelly, Clare McDonald and Brian McKenna discuss the DWP’s IR35 tax bill, the launch of the 2021 Most Influential Women in UK Technology awards programme, and company cultures.

After some chat about the “pingdemic”, the podcast team get into some meaty topics.

Caroline kicks of the episode with a hot news story about how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been hit with an £87.9m tax bill by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) over “historic” IR35 status contractor assessment errors.

This stemmed from a review of the department’s IR35 compliance procedures which revealed that it had incorrectly assessed the employment status of its contractors over several years.

The department’s 2020-21 accounts also show it used HMRC’s Check Employment for Status Test (CEST) online checker tool to inform its decisions. This tool has been controversial, and Caroline expands on that in the podcast.

The background to all of this is that in April 2017, HMRC introduced changes in the public sector so that responsibility for deciding how contractors should be taxed shifted away from intermediaries and onto the end clients that engaged them. The same changes came into effect for all medium to large companies in the private sector from 6 April 2021.

Private sector companies will, more than likely, be following these developments in government as possible harbingers of things to come. The implementation of the changes in the public sector have not, Caroline points out on the podcast, “been smooth sailing at all”, and more tax bills for government departments are likely to be in the offing. The Home Office has also been hit with a tax demand from HMRC of £33.5m, after a review of the department’s IR35 compliance procedures determined that it had been “careless” in its implementation of the tax avoidance reforms.

Women in tech

In part two of the episode, the team moves on to discuss Computer Weekly’s annual celebration of women in tech, and diversity.

Clare relates how the voting has now begun for the most influential woman in UK Technology 2021.

The 2021 longlist of 500 women considered for the Computer Weekly list of the 50 Most Influential Women in UK Technology this year has been published. Fifty of those women have been shortlisted by a panel of expert judges, and readers can vote using the form in this article. Voting closes at midnight on 29 August 2021. The final list, ranked 1-50, of the Most Influential Women in UK IT will be chosen by combining the decision of the judging panel with the votes of readers. 

This year’s winner will be announced at an online event on 30 September 2021, held in partnership with recruitment specialist Spinks.

This is the 10th year that Computer Weekly has compiled the list, and a vibrant community has been building up around it.

Ten more women have been added to the awards programme’s Hall of Fame. As Caroline points out on the podcast, this enables the list to grow year after year. It’s also heartening to see women in tech moving through being “rising stars” to the main list and then to the Hall of Fame. For example, Anne-Marie Imafidon, CEO of Stemettes, was originally named one of Computer Weekly’s Rising Stars in 2014, going on to win the title of Most Influential Woman in UK Tech in 2020, and is now in the Hall of Fame.

On the podcast, Clare reveals the theme for this year’s event and programme. This both looks at a decade of progress in the women in tech and diversity movement and at the impact of the pandemic on the situation of women in technology and society, posing the question of what can be done over the next 10 years to make up ground lost to the Covid health crisis and then make further progress.

“Even if there has been progress,” says Clare, “how many steps back have we taken due to the pandemic? And how do we stop than happening again in the future?”

Seeing 500 women on the longlist is a marker of progress. All the people who ask, “Where are all the women in tech? I can’t hire enough” should take note, says Clare.

Company culture

Brian then moves on to the topic of company culture, taking off from an interview with the co-CEO of Workday, Chano Fernandez.

Brian offers a snapshot of Workday – its heritage under co-founders David Duffield and Aneel Bhusri, and their avowed intent to put “employees first” when first building the software-as-a-service HR and financial software company, which is based in Pleasanton, California.

Those two were the co-CEOs of the company originally – an unusual model which Workday revived with the appointment of Chano Fernandez as co-CEO in 2020. Fernandez is unusual in being the European co-leader of a Californian tech company.

Brian says the bulk of his conversation with Chano was about company culture – defined on TechTarget’s WhatIs.com as “the collection of values, beliefs, ethics and attitudes that characterise an organisation and guide its practices”.

That Workday gave employees a 15-day salary bonus to help them at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic health crisis has become a totem of its culture. All employees have shares in Workday and, its leadership has said, the company wants employees to stay for the long haul – unlike some other Silicon Valley companies which are prepared to accept quick turnover as a price to pay for playing in the restless talent pool of the Bay Area. Brian mentions LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman in this regard, and an interview he did with Aneel Bhusri.

The team them moves on to have a more general and lively discussion about the topic of company culture: how different cultures can co-exist to mutual benefit within the same company, and how company cultures can go cultic, so that needs to be guarded against. The team also speculates, animatedly, about what kind of culture their company would have, were they to launch one. Brian is confident the masses would flock to our company banner.

Podcast music courtesy of Joseph McDade

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