Chris Bryce replaces Phil Pluck as CEO of FCSA

Chris Bryce, the six-and-half-year chief executive of IPSE, is taking over as the CEO of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association.

He replaces Phil Pluck who was new to the FCSA -- a membership organisation for compliant employment service firms -- when he was appointed to the role in July 2020.

A former Acas director, Mr Pluck’s 18-month stint coincided with staunch criticism of umbrella companies, partly triggered by a BBC probe into umbrella company holiday pay.

'Difficult year for the FCSA'

Following calls on FCSA to act, including an unflattering gif image depicting its CEO as a ‘sheriff’ in a supply chain ‘wild west’, Mr Pluck took to LinkedIn to denounce “bullying and harassment.”

Disquiet over an update to the FCSA’s membership charter hit seven months later, on top of questions by MPs about why FCSA umbrellas are the only umbrellas engaged by HMRC.

“Last year was difficult for the FCSA as it faced criticism on many different fronts,” a source said last night to ContractorUK.

“Changing personnel will not remove these challenges. Chief among them is that there is a perception that the FCSA is a self-serving monopoly run by a small number of members.”

'Uphold FCSA's standards'

Asked if that negative perception is based on evidence, the source said the association’s registered address still belonged to one of its largest member companies.

Familiar with the FCSA’s senior leadership, the source added: “The incoming CEO will need to demonstrate his independence from members, and visibly uphold the FCSA’s standards”.

Mr Bryce officially replaced Mr Pluck on January 4th. His background is sales, marketing and, at a senior management level, logistics. He also worked as a PSC contractor for 11 years.


“[Since I stepped down from IPSE as CEO in March 2020] I’ve done some general business consultancy work as a freelancer,” Mr Bryce said yesterday, responding to questions.

It is this return to his “roots” -- as he described it yesterday to ContractorUK -- which should reassure contractors that he will be alive to their concerns.

“I don’t believe that it’s in the interests of contractors for umbrella companies to be banned,” said Mr Bryce, a former president of the European Forum of Independent Professionals.

“Government should create a greater focus on identifying and shutting down rogue operators and relieving them of their ill-gotten gains, rather than pursuing duped contractors.”

'Offshore schemes precluded'

On less safe territory -- the FCSA charter permitting members to be 25% offshore, Mr Bryce said: “FCSA’s charter specifically precludes the offering or provision of offshore schemes

“[And] the FCSA does not permit offshore arrangements/solutions or structures that seek to evade or avoid UK tax regulation or employment rights, as set out in the FCSA codes.”

A former chief executive of the FCSA Julia Kermode welcomed Mr Bryce to the role. “Congratulations to Chris on his appointment, I am sure he will do a fantastic job.

“The umbrella industry is often unfairly vilified and I hope he will use his skills and experience to dispel some of the myths about the sector. Having been a contractor himself, I’m sure Chris will have some useful insights for his new role.”

Mirroring Mr Bryce’s time as CEO of IPSE (formerly PCG which was set up to abolish IR35), Ms Kermode also occupied her CEO role for six-and-a-half years.

She left the FCSA in July 2020, to be succeeded by the former managing director of The Royal Town Planning Institute, and ex-CEO of the Glass and Glazing Federation, Mr Pluck.

'Never, NEVER believe...'

His tenure at the top of both bodies may explain his calmness under pressure when quizzed last month by the House of Lords IR35 inquiry, which called him as an expert witness.

Mr Pluck is also known to have pressed Giant after it was hit by hackers in September, in a bid to quicken the process of the umbrella resetting its systems so contractors could be paid.  

“Never, NEVER believe that 75%+ take-home via an umbrella is lawfully possible,” he said last week, keeping up his service to contractors despite being in his final days as the FCSA's CEO.

'Contractors should take great care'

Continuing the alert-style posts to contractors almost seamlessly, amid clone umbrellas spreading to comparison websites, his successor Mr Bryce posted yesterday: “Action is required by Companies House to strike-off these phonies and disbar the repeat offenders as directors.”

The FCSA’s new chief executive added: “Contractors should avoid [signing up to umbrellas via]…comparison sites and take great care to ensure they’re dealing with a legitimate, compliant umbrella.”

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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