Optimum Pay Group goes into liquidation

Optimum Pay Group (OPG), an umbrella company with 1,700 employees, has gone into liquidation, leaving droves of contractors unpaid.

The precise number of out-of-pocket contractors -- those whose invoices are unsettled or weren’t issued by the company to agencies before its liquidation on June 28th, is not clear.

Optimum Pay Group did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Revolution RTI Ltd -- Optimum’s liquidators, run by Dean Andrew Smith, a licensed insolvency practitioner.

'All Optimum's have companies gone down'

But recruitment lawyer Adrian Marlowe says the number of contractors left in a financially “dire situation” by Optimum -- as one affected employee put it -- is likely to be significant.

“All Optimum’s companies have gone down, Umbrella; PAY and CIS. So there’s probably a large number of contractors out there who haven’t been paid,” the lawyer told ContractorUK.

Boss at Lawspeed, Mr Marlowe hesitated to offer ‘soundbite’ advice to the unpaid, as he said their spread across Optimum’s different companies makes ‘one-size-fits-all’ guidance tricky.

'Different issues to consider'

“Each type [of worker] will potentially have different issues to consider,” he says. “CIS; they’ll be self-employed, whereas those with the umbrella -- OPG -- will be employed.”

To try to properly advise these workers who suddenly find themselves as creditors, Mr Marlowe, who is also chair of the Association of Recruitment Consultancies writes today exclusively for ContractorUK.

Usually, to avoid an umbrella folding on them with no notice (“all of a sudden they stopped responding to emails” as one OPG user says), contractors are advised that brollies with accreditation are best.

But initial reports of OPG’s difficulties which claim the company’s senior staff are now under HMRC investigation, correctly observe that the umbrella was accredited by Professional Passport.  

'Confidentiality agreement'

The compliance organisation declined to comment last night, citing a “confidentiality agreement.”

However it is understood that OPG had its Professional Passport accreditation removed just before the brolly went into liquidation.

A bit like making sure it has accreditation from a recognised body, also usually advised to avoid problems at an umbrella company is to check its online reviews.    

But the latest user reviews for Optimum Pay Group serve to confirm its financial difficulties.

'Worst experience'

On Trustpilot, a review of OPG entitled “Worst experience” states: “All of a sudden, they stopped responding to emails.

“They stopped invoicing to the agency and hence I cannot get paid now”.

Posted in mid-July 2023, the review adds: “Then today, they sent [me a] P45 without any notice or reasons.

“[However] over the phone, after making multiple calls, they [told me] they have stopped trading as an umbrella company.”

'Money lost to the administrator'

A ContractorUK Forum user says it’s not sensible of the reviewer to criticise OPG for ceasing to invoice the agency.

“If a closing-umbrella company sends an agency an invoice, then that money is lost to the administrator,” the forum user told ContractorUK.

“But, if no invoice is sent out, a new [replacement] umbrella company can send the invoice, and the worker will get paid. Granted, it may be a week later, but at least they’ll be paid.”

'Ambitious credit terms'

Ironically, it is payment issues which are linked to OPG’s difficulties, according to both a senior agency source and, independent of that agency, an umbrella compliance source.

The agency source claimed: “[Optimum Pay Group] were providing some ambitious credit terms for a big customer who didn't pay.

“This pushed them over the edge. I've been calling [out] this scenario for a few years and [I] can only see it getting worse, with rising interest rates. OPG basically used the VAT money they were withholding for CIS to fund client terms.”

The umbrella compliance source said: “They had a payment from one of their agencies default. And because they were providing payment terms, they had to shut down.”


But Optimum Pay Group still seems relatively open, as its liquidation isn’t mentioned on its website, and sign-ups to its umbrella, CIS and PAYE businesses are still being accepted.

Further confusingly, two 5-star Trustpilot reviews have appeared since Companies House recorded OPG as in “liquidation”, despite both reviews’ “date of experience” referring to periods after the June 28th filing.  

Optimum’s website also still displays the logo of Professional Passport, even though the umbrella’s name is not contained in the organisation’s online list of “approved providers.”

“Why on earth leave [your contractors] in such a dire situation?” a one-star Trustpilot reviewer asked, posting after Optimum Pay Group went into liquidation. “[Even] if you are not interested [anymore] in serving as umbrella company…you could [still] have given some notice to [us] to find some alternative.”

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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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