Over the last few weeks, we have been heavily involved in creating a response to BEIS having been given a copy of their draft legislation surrounding regulation of the umbrella sector. This has now been submitted and of course you will see our response once BEIS has given us permission to release it. The Chair and I are due to meet BEIS in the next few weeks to progress discussions.
I and the FCSA Chair also sit on the committee of JobsAware (previously Safer Jobs) which is an initiative backed by HM Government. There are some interesting developments which are set out in the latest minutes which can be found below. You will see that there is now a clear intent to create a hub for outsourced worker where they can both gain information and report non-compliant activities in the sector.
JobsAware is a Government (BEIS and HMRC), police, industry initiative to protect workers’ rights (previously SAFER jobs) https://www.jobsaware.co.uk/ – worker rights, remuneration, modern slavery. Illegal working etc. Workers and businesses can report complaints via the website.
The intermediaries industry – including the umbrella industry – is a known risk and therefore there is a formal sub-committee which APSCo is a member of, alongside FCSA, PP and others.
It is a forum where all interested parties can coordinate on initiatives e.g. improving the KID process and other ways of communicating pay transparency to workers. It can make recommendations to government.
There is also a sub-committee being reformed focusing on recruitment issues e.g fraud against recruiters.
Below you will find the notes from the previous meeting. I
Agenda (16th August 2021):
1. Review of notes & actions
The notes from the last meeting (circulated by email) on 24th June were reviewed and approved.
2. JobsAware General Update
Keith provided a general JobsAware update to the group, which included information about the type of data captured and how it can be reported on, a partnership update and upcoming projects.
Comments / feedback included:
• Compulsory fields in the report form – is it possible to make these optional so that anonymous reports can be submitted?
ACTION: Keith to propose to the JobsAware developer an option in the report form for if individuals would like a response then they can leave their contact details.
• Limited category options – could more granular options be added such as ‘holiday pay’ or ‘pay uplifted incorrectly’
ACTION: Keith to propose to the JobsAware development team a review of current data to see if there is any need for expanded categories at this stage.
• The availability of the reports for the public, including on the website or via email
o JobsAware would not be making the reports publicly available on the website at this stage, but are considering ways to display this information simply for use by partners.
o In future, there could be a distribution list for certain types of data, however this list is likely to begin with government and law enforcement, and expand to non-government agencies once JobsAware are comfortable with the message.
• The A-Z could have more content, that many of the organisations present already own and could populate easily
o Another committee, as part of JobsAware, called the Temporary, Casual and Gig worker (TCG) committee is being formalised and will be the new “ASCOR”. This committee will continue to own the A-Z, and be responsible for deciding which content is included. The TCG committee, when ready, will also take content submissions, and the committee would ideally involve certain organisations which would be able to contribute regularly in this area.
o Ultimately the A-Z is designed to be a landing page to point individuals to the expert for their particular issue.
3. JobsAware Payment Intermediary proposition – to discuss
The draft proposition was shared ahead of the meeting:
• Demonstrate that Payment Intermediary partners are working proactively to protect contractor rights
• A place to refer contractors that have concerns about their employment
• A place to refer contractors that need general employment help or advice
• An opportunity for Payment Intermediary partners to engage with UK Government, through the sub-committee, to discuss and address issues and opportunities in the sector
• A place for Payment Intermediary partners to report abuse, such as contractor fraud.
The proposition was agreed as reasonable, in principle. A debate ensued about the level of risk posed to JobsAware and industry when companies are allowed to badge themselves with JobsAware with little vetting taking place. The following points were raised and considered:
• The Payment Intermediaries sector has a history of non-compliance or misuse of logos by illegitimate entities
• A form of registration should be included, at least with JobsAware, perhaps with a reference to the JobsAware working relationships with EAS, HMRC and law enforcement
• Many illegitimate entities disappear after only a few months of operation, making them harder to spot
• Disguised renumeration however can take years to discover
• Transparency in the sector is the best / most pertinent way to ensure that contractors are educated on their rights and that non-compliant entities are extracted quickly
• If a lot of gain is to be had through the promotion of the JobsAware logo, even via less-compliant entities, then it could be a risk worth taking
• Some non-compliant entities already say they are “HMRC compliant” etc. even if they’re not, so they may not be deterred from using the JobsAware logo improperly
• Before all of this happens, the education of contractors is the most important piece of work – the relationships with Contractor UK are a good starting point
• It is important for the expectations to be defined from the outset – for example, what does use of the logo mean etc.
• Controversial idea – just get the logo out there by any which way, even if it falls into the hands of some less-compliant entities, as the audience reach is greater
• 90% of victims of disguised renumeration schemes do not even receive a payslip, or if they do, it’s not the right type or contains incorrect information, so payslips should not be the only medium of promotion
• In future, the inclusion of the JobsAware logo on KIDs would be ideal, though those in the most abusive schemes are unlikely to receive a KID either
• Another method of JobsAware promotion could simply be via Payment Intermediary websites
• If a focus was placed on JobsAware being a place to report abuse, then public perception around it being a “kitemark” could be managed
It was generally agreed that more than one method of JobsAware logo promotion would be most effective, with a consideration needed around the level of risk vs reward by use of the logo on payslips and websites.
ACTION: Keith and Lauren to amend the proposition and circulate for comments and feedback.
4. Contractor Fraud update
An update on the Contractor Fraud issue was given in the general update. It showed the other side of the contractor story, whereby this group is designed to improve the industry standards for contractors, JobsAware also has a working group which is looking to address the issue of fake contractors and fake clients working together to defraud recruitment agencies and payment intermediaries.
5. AOB & Close
A short discussion was held around the ability for an independent Pay Calculator to be created by HMRC. Discussions around the subject are underway but nothing can be confirmed as of yet.
For the next session, which would be 1 hr and 15mins in roughly 6 weeks, the following agenda items will be included:
• A review of the updated proposition
• How JobsAware should target the industry – any other organisations to include?
• An update on the independent Pay Calculator workstream
In various guises, there is clearly a welcome focus on our sector within government and thanks to FCSA membership money you are investing in the FCSA being able to contribute to ensuring contingent workers have the best possible protection.
Our current Chair continues to represent FCSA on the HMRC IR35 Forum and so our presence in stakeholder circles continues to be both extensive and positive.