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Employment Status

5 min read

This is a story about fitting neatly in a box...


"Are you in full-time employment, part-time employment, self-employed, full-time student, retired or unemployed?" the person on the end of the phone is asking me. What should I reply?

Technically, I'm in full-time employment. Let's proceed with that conversation and see how we get on, shall we?

"OK. Can I have your manager's name or somebody who we can contact to verify your employment and your salary, please?" the person on the end of the phone asks. What should I reply?

Technically, I'm employed by the board of directors. Given that I'm the managing director - the CEO - then the reply is that they should contact me to verify my employment and my salary. Let's see how we get on with that, shall we?

"I don't understand, sir. Are you self-employed?"

Technically I am not self-employed. I have an employment contract with a company and I get paid a salary by that company. The company which employs me is a legal entity, which was incorporated, has memorandums and articles of association, a board of directors (me), shareholders (me) as well as employees (also me). The company has its own bank account, compiles and submits annual accounts to the relevant authorities, and operates as a limited company, which is very different to being "self employed". I'm going to tell them I'm not self-employed, because that would be fraudulent. Let's see how we get on, shall we?

"OK. Who should we write to who can verify your employment and your salary? Do you have a human resources department?"

Technically the company does have a human resources department, as well as every other department that a person might imagine exists in an organisation - finance, accounts payable, accounts receivable, sales, marketing, IT, operations, admin, customer support etc. etc. - so this person on the phone could certainly write to one of these departments. Let's see if they'd like to write to my accountant and see how we get on with that, shall we?

"So your accountant can confirm your employment and your salary?"

Technically, anybody can confirm my appointment as company director, because it's a matter of public record. My salary is not the same as my financial compensation so we're going to have to have that particularly difficult conversation now. Let's see how we get on, shall we?

"So how much do you earn each month?"

Technically, I could earn £702 in one month and 20 times that amount the next. My financial compensation is based upon the company's profits, which are variable, and it's the decision of the board of directors as to when dividends will be paid and how much they will be. Let's try explaining that, shall we?

"So you're self-employed? Or do you work in sales? I don't understand"

Technically, part of my job is sales, in that I am responsible for selling my company's consultancy services. I do not, however, "work in sales". My financial compensation is not based on commission or targets or any of that other crap. I am not self-employed and I am getting rather frustrated about having to repeat myself with this person on the end of the phone.

I could relent, and either misrepresent myself as "employed" with a salary based on my average earnings over the past 3 years, or I could misrepresent myself as "self-employed" which is going to result in them asking me to show them detailed account statements, proving a steady stream of income.

What I really want is for the person on the end of the phone to understand that I'm in the box marked "other" and the way to find out what they really want to know - can I afford to make a monthly payment? - can be answered by my chartered accountant, who's professionally obliged to give truthful and accurate answers.

That I have to answer these questions at all comes about whether buying a car on finance, applying for a loan, applying for a mortgage or even changing from one mortgage provider to another. Given that even the wealthiest amongst us are not able to afford their houses without at least some part mortgaged, the neat set of boxes, which do not include "other" causes a lot of stress and hassle - it's surprisingly difficult to navigate parts of society, where most other people do neatly fit into one of the boxes.

Obviously I hope to one day be rich enough to buy a house in cash - which will probably be a tiny cabin in the woods - but for the time being I'm forced to suffer this arduous form-filling exercise and rigmarole with people on the telephone, who are using systems which are unable to cope with us "others".

Perhaps this is capitalism's way of nudging me towards a minimum-wage McJob, just so I can avoid this kind of hassle.