Frequently Asked Questions

If you’ve still got questions swirling around in your mind, check out our FAQs below, or just give us a call

  • About Vario

    What is Vario?

    Pinsent Masons Vario is an integrated part of the wider Pinsent Masons law firm comprising the following services; flexible legal resourcing, diversity and inclusion consulting, legal project management, consulting and technology and managed legal services. Within each of these service lines there are various freelance consultants, freelance legal professionals and employees.

    However, all share a common vision of working in a fresh, flexible manner. For details on each particular service, please visit their corresponding service page.


    What type of clients work with Vario?

    A very wide range! Our client base covers sectors from banking to TMT and infrastructure, and from large multinationals through to public sector organisations. The common thread is that each client is seeking a flexible legal resource to help them meet their challenges.


  • IR35

    What is IR35?

    IR35 is anti-avoidance tax legislation which sets the rules to make sure contractors working through personal service companies (PSCs) pay the correct tax. The rules are in place to address what HMRC describe as “deemed employment”, where individuals operating through PSCs work like employees and they should pay broadly the same income tax and NICs regardless of the structure they work through.

    The first piece of legislation came into force in April 2000. In April 2017 the government introduced the “off-payroll working reforms”, a separate piece of new tax legislation applying to the public sector. This is being extended to the private sector from 6 April 2021.


    What is changing?

    Under current rules, it is the responsibility of the individual worker to ensure they are complying with the IR35 rules, and properly accounting for tax through their PSC. Come 6 April 2021 the responsibility for determining the employment status for tax purposes of off-payroll workers will (where services are being provided to non-SME end clients) shift from the individual contractor to the end client business or organisation. The changes also impose payroll obligations on the business that is paying the worker’s PSC or other intermediary.


    What do the IR35 changes mean for our flexible consultants?

    Responsibility for determining how an assignment should be taxed will move from the consultant’s PSC to the end client (which might be either Pinsent Masons or an external Pinsent Masons’ client).

    The end client will be responsible for providing a status determination statement (‘SDS’) confirming their IR35 assessment.

    For assignments falling inside IR35, liability for income tax and national insurance contributions, payable by operation of the IR35 rules, moves away from the consultant’s PSC, and Vario/Pinsent Masons as ‘fee-payer’ will have an obligation under the new legislation to make the relevant PAYE deductions.

    For assignments falling outside IR35, the consultant’s PSC will remain responsible for accounting for tax and national insurance contributions as appropriate.

    There will be a dispute process in place for a consultant to challenge an IR35 assessment – this is a requirement of the new legislation.


    I have a question about how the IR35 changes will affect me, who should I contact?

    Alongside your usual Vario team contact, our dedicated IR35 team are on hand to provide you with any help and support you may need, or to answer any individual queries. Please do not hesitate to contact them via our IR35 mailbox: [email protected]


    How is Vario responding to the upcoming changes?

    Vario has a dedicated project team working with Pinsent Masons’ tax specialists and specialist external IR35 advisers to ensure we are as well-placed as possible to ensure continuity of service for Pinsent Masons clients and help and support our Vario consultants navigate the changes. Vario have a range of engagement solutions, both PSC and PAYE.

    From April 2020 Vario will continue to support contractors operating through PSCs, whether individual engagements fall inside or outside of IR35. Vario already provides payroll support to PSC contractors undertaking public sector assignments which fall inside IR35, and, from 6th April 2021, will provide support to PSC contractors undertaking private sector assignments caught by the IR35 rules. Vario also has in place alternative PAYE solutions including a PAYE (Umbrella) model, alongside finalising other non-exclusive employed solutions to provide the best possible choice and flexibility.

  • Clients

    What type of clients work with Vario?

    A very wide range! Our client base covers sectors from banking to TMT and infrastructure, and from large multinational companies through to public sector organisations. The common thread is that each client is seeking a flexible legal resource to help them meet their challenges.


    Are all assignments with clients of Pinsent Masons?

    A large proportion of Vario assignments are with Pinsent Masons’ clients, although not all. We also offer assignments within Pinsent Masons’ in-house teams where support is required.

  • About Vario Flexible Legal Services

    How does Vario Flexible Services Work?

    Vario Flexible Services is based on a freelance/flexible model. We are not able to contract with our Varios in an individual capacity; Vario consultants are required to deliver their services through a corporate vehicle. Typically this will be a personal services company, although some Varios choose to go down the PAYE Umbrella company route (we don’t advise the Varios on which route to take, this is for each individual to decide what works best for them).

    As a successful Vario applicant, you will go through an onboarding process to make sure you are assignment-ready. We will then keep in touch with you and as soon as a suitable assignment opportunity comes through we will let you know. As the assignment opportunities are very much driven by client needs, we can’t guarantee work; however, being as flexible as possible on your side will help us place you into assignments. By the same token, Vario is not an exclusive arrangement, so there is no obligation on you to accept assignments offered to you, and you are free to accept work from other sources. All we ask is that you keep us updated around your availability.


    Does the Vario model require me to be exclusive?

    No, if you are brought into the Vario bench you will still be able to pick up work from other providers/agencies all we ask is that you keep us informed of your availability so that we can contact you when you become available again.

  • Application Process

    What's the purpose of the online questionnaire?

    To provide insight into an individual’s natural behaviours, style and personality, and their fit for freelance work. Freelancing requires a different mindset and a particular set of skills and behaviours, and fantastic lawyers might not always make fantastic freelance lawyers. This questionnaire will also help you understand whether freelance work might be right for you.


    What's the application process like?

    In keeping with how we strive to do business, we’ve kept our selection process as simple as possible and focused on getting to know you. We also appreciate the need to move at pace in the dynamic world of freelance legal work, so we aim to reach a decision within one month from application. Candidates are screened at each stage before progressing, and feedback is provided after the questionnaire stage.

    Download our process chart


    What references will I need?

    We will take two professional references from you.

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