The feeling’s mutual?

Michael Steed examines the concept of mutuality of obligation and assesses its significance as we head for the new off-payroll working rules in the private sector, currently scheduled for April 2021

It was the decision in Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) [2020] UKUT 147 (TCC) on employment vs self-employment for football referees that once again brought the issue of mutuality of obligation (MOO) to the forefront. The phrase mutuality of obligation has been in use for years; but what does it mean and how (if at all) has its significance changed over the years?

I am not going to use this article to discuss employment law issues, except to the extent that they help us understand the tax issues. Rather it will address MOO as a concept, just as relevant in employment law cases as it is in tax cases (see for example Clark v Oxfordshire Health Authority [1998] IRLR 125).

The concept of mutuality of obligation