Got a tip about a non-compliant umbrella company? Then give our hotline a ring

Not so long ago, a former tax inspector who now works in the private sector said he could name a dozen non-compliant umbrella companies that were registered active; were operational, and were actively recruiting unsuspecting contractors.

Not so long ago -- just three weeks ago in fact, the FCSA switched on our new whistleblowing hotline for non-compliance.

Well, if the two could come together, the umbrella contractor industry would be in a much, much better place, writes Chris Bryce, CEO of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association.

Ring us up

Contactable on 0203 302 5112, the FCSA hotline is officially open to take tips and reasonable evidence on anyone or any activity that is detracting from the freelance and contractor industry being able to operate in a fair and lawful manner.

The hotline is an important resource for contractors and freelancers themselves, who may have concerns about non-compliance within the industry. By calling it, you can report suspected non-compliance, and unethical behaviour, including issues related to payroll, taxes, and employment law.

Complete confidentiality

Due to the nature of what callers wish to say, it's important to me that the hotline is completely confidential, meaning those ringing can stay anonymous. It’s designed to allow people to speak up about non-compliance issues without fear of retaliation or negative consequences.

Indeed, the FCSA encourages anyone who has information about non-compliance, immoral behaviour or improper conduct to come forward and report it, in full. One of our commitments as an association for the contractor and freelancer community is to promote practices that are both compliant and ethical, and we want the hotline to be a key tool in achieving this goal.

What calls have lit up the hotline to date?

So far, the hotline has received a small number of calls – with all but one submission pertaining to non-FCSA member companies. But we’re actively reviewing and investigating each company. Some of the issues that have been reported include non-compliance with employment laws, and the misclassification of ‘outside’ IR35 contractors as ‘inside.’

We’ve also heard about unexplained deductions on payslips, and the failure of suppliers to properly calculate and/or pay taxes. Providers not meeting their (contractual) obligations has been red-flagged too. Interestingly, in the umbrella space, one of the most common complaints appears to stem from the confusion that first-time contractors can sometimes have over ‘assignment rate’ and ‘gross pay.’

Even with best intentions...

As a contractor or freelancer, it's important to understand the laws and regulations that apply to your status, and to ensure that everyone in the chain is operating in compliance with them.

However, even with the best intentions, non-compliance can still occur! So the FCSA hotline is a valuable resource for calling this out and addressing any misunderstandings or issues.

My final message to contractors is this. If you have any information about non-compliance in the contractor or freelancer industry, please consider reporting it to the FCSA hotline. Further details about this new telephone resource are on our website, along with details of two other ways you can make whistleblowing reports to us about non-compliance. But remember, with the hotline, it’s confidential, anonymous and a rapid way to help ensure that the contractor industry is operating in a fair and lawful manner. Together, and by talking, we can build a more compliant and ethical industry for all.

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Written by Chris Bryce

Chris Bryce is Chief Executive of Freelancer and Contractors Services Association (FCSA) – fcsa.org.uk - and was previously CEO of The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE). Before that he was a contractor for more than 25 years, and as a result has developed a keen eye for the problems faced by contractors in the post-IR35 era.

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