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26th Nov Edinburgh And London Protests Over Umbrella Companies

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

GMB Join Parliamentary Lobbies On Wed 26th November In London And Edinburgh To Highlight Abuse And Tax Scams By “Umbrella” Companies

Government must step in to deal with these four party tax avoidance abuse and scams which are costing workers income and the Exchequer much needed revenues says GMB.

GMB, the union for construction workers, will take part in protests in London and Edinburgh on Wednesday (November 26th) to highlight the abuse involved as a consequence of workers being paid via umbrella companies.

Since April 2014, arising from Government introduction of new measures which requires workers to be paid via PAYE, many thousands of construction workers have been forced to work via umbrella companies. The scam is costing construction workers up to £120 a week as well as lost revenues to the Exchequer.

The details of the protests are as follows:

10.45am Wednesday 26th November and photocall with MPs at 11.15am

Old Palace Yard


London SW1A


And 11am Wednesday 26th November

Scottish Parliament


Edinburgh EH99 1SP


Phil Whitehurst, GMB National Officer for construction, said “An umbrella company is a company that acts as an employer to agency workers like construction and other workers. So instead of their being two parties the contractor and the worker, umbrella arrangements usually involve four parties – the worker, the contractor, the agency and the umbrella company.

On construction sites there will be a main contractor, and often multiple layers of subcontractors, employment agencies but the worker’s employment contract is with the umbrella company, not the agency. 

Normally the agency will agree a job and pay rate with a contractor and then contact the worker about the job.  The umbrella company receives the payment from the contractor for the work done by the worker.  It processes the payment, deducting PAYE income tax, employee’s and employer’s National Insurance contributions and the umbrella company’s fee. 

The residual sum is then paid to the worker as net pay. Often workers are officially paid at the national minimum wage, despite having negotiated a pay rate far in excess of this figure. Pay is then partially re-boosted through scams using expenses, performance related pay and other methods.

Payslips are often so complex that workers tell us that they do not understand how their pay is being calculated.

Many umbrella companies also withhold an amount of money that should be paid to the worker at a later date in the form of holiday pay but is not paid.

The benefit to construction companies and agencies of using umbrella companies is that of reducing tax and national insurance liabilities.  These  liabilities and other costs, including the cost of the employer’s NI contributions and the umbrella company fee for providing payroll services,  are passed on to the construction workers. This is an abuse.

We have construction companies negating their responsibilities of direct employment by using parasitic umbrella companies and forcing workers into accepting the terms offered or they quite simply don't get the work.

These spurious tax avoidance contracts leave staff with no employment or financial stability. They are very often put on zero hours contracts with holiday and other payments rolled up into one composite rate of pay. Workers are then forced by the very nature of the contracts to pay both the employees and the employers National Insurance contributions. This can cost them up to £120 per week. These parasitic companies then have the brass neck to charge between £20 - £30 admin fees per week for their troubles.

The practice of using umbrella companies is spreading to other sectors of the economy. The Government must step in to deal with these four party tax avoidance abuses and scams which are costing workers income and the Exchequer much needed revenues.”


Contact Phil Whitehurst mobile: 07968 338810 or office: 020 7391 6700 or GMB Press Office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823



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