Should You Hire Contractors or Employees?

Blog / Bookkeeping

Should You Hire Contractors or Employees?

You often hear business owners talking about how they are growing their business by hiring contractors, rather than employees. The argument is compelling: the paperwork is simpler, and you can be more nimble. However, like everything in business, it is not always that clear cut.  There are a few factors to consider before you decide if you're hiring contractors or employees.

Employees and contractors are seen differently by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and it’s important to make sure that you are treating employees appropriately to avoid adverse tax consequences down the road. In addition to tax reasons, there are other more subtle business reasons why the nature of the relationship matters.  Sometimes, the tax reason and the business reasons are at odds!

Here are the 4 things that you’ll need to take into consideration when understanding your working relationships with contractors or employees:

Control

Control can be hard to define, but generally, an employer has more control over an employee than of a self-employed person. Does the individual control how the work is done? Do they have flexibility in the product or service that they deliver?  

Chance of Profit and Risk of Loss

A self-employed person usually has some degree of financial risk and opportunity for profit.  Does the individual simply get paid an hourly rate, regardless of the outcome? Or are they compensated on a fixed fee basis with an opportunity to work efficiently and maximize profit?  These aren’t the only questions to ask, but they might help you in determining the nature of the relationship.  

Integration of the Role

An employee’s tasks are an integral part of an employer’s business, but the tasks of a self-employed contractor are generally not as integrated into the business. Are you in the software space and hiring a contractor to do some painting around the office? The painter’s role is likely not an integral part of your business.  

Tools and Equipment

Self-employed contractors are more likely to supply their own tools and equipment for their role.

There are benefits and disadvantages for business owners with both kinds of relationships. Depending on the type of worker your small business needs, you may need to decide between hiring an employee or contractor. Here’s what you should consider:

Benefits of Having Employees

If you’re looking for longer term working relationships, employees are frequently your best bet. Particularly if you are hiring for full time positions, you will find that employees are more devoted to your company and its growth because their salary directly depends on it. You can expect employees to have a greater presence at your office or place of business and with that you are better able to get their buy-in on culture and vision. 

If your business has employees, you generally have a large amount of control over the working relationship. You have the flexibility to decide on wages and hours, and the way in which your employees work.

Disadvantages of Having Employees

When you hire employees, you’re responsible for payroll and tax paperwork. Outsourcing your payroll functions is always an option to reduce headaches associated with employees.

Employment regulations can be tricky. For instance, ending a relationship with an employee can be challenging and comes with some uncertainty and liability.  

As an employer, you are required to withhold payroll taxes from employees’ paycheques and remit them to the government at a specified frequency. In addition, you must make contributions to the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance for your employees.  

Benefits of Working with Contractors

If you’re a small, growing business but aren’t financially ready to hire long-term employees, contractors can be an effective option to get a job done without the commitment.  

Despite the perception that contractors can disappear quickly, many freelance workers will be happy to commit to working with you and your business on a longer-term basis. If your business ebbs and flows, you may want to have a reliable roster of contractors that can take on extra work during the busy season, but that you won’t need to pay during quieter months.

Working with contractors can be appealing because of the simplicity from a tax reporting and paperwork standpoint. You generally won’t have to process payroll or remit taxes for contractors. You’ll also be off the hook for paying for employee benefits like health care, maternity/paternity leave, and vacation time.

Disadvantages of Working with Contractors

Since contractors are responsible for managing their own taxes and fees, plus generally provide their own tools and equipment, their rates will be higher than if you were to hire an employee.  

As self-employed individuals, contractors are less likely to feel the same level of commitment to your company as employees will. However, if you find a contractor you really like working with, putting in the effort to pay them on time and respect the work they do goes a long way. Many freelance workers value long-term relationships with clients and will forego other client work if they enjoy working for you.

Are you a small business owner that is managing payroll for your employees? Consider outsourcing your payroll or bookkeeping tasks. Let’s talk about the time and money your business can save with a fully customized outsourced payroll concierge.

Omar Visram
About Omar Visram
Omar Visram is the Co-founder and CEO of Enkel Backoffice Solutions Inc. Headquartered in Vancouver, Enkel provides bookkeeping, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable services to over 200 organizations Canada-wide.