How Professional Passport is protecting contractors from the skims and the scams
With the latest reports around skimming in the umbrella industry, Crawford Temple, CEO of Professional Passport says transparency is crucial to routing out non-compliance.
Media reports around skimming and holiday pay as well as other unsavoury practices have hit the umbrella sector hard lately and even so-called compliant well-known brands are facing allegations that they have been duping contractors out of money that is due to them.
So, what has Professional Passport put in place to protect contractors?
Specifically on holiday pay, Professional Passport has worked with the main software providers in the market to ensure their reporting systems deliver clear information to workers on their holiday pay entitlement. Every time a worker receives their pay, they can see at a glance their holiday pay position and each report details any amount accrued in a given period, what has been paid in that period, and any balances carried forward. This initiative has served to benefit the whole sector, not just Professional Passport providers, and we encourage all providers to adopt the Professional Passport pay reporting style as the industry standard.
Many of the reports on holiday pay retention suggested that providers relied on contractual terms that were often not read or understood by the workers so that many workers were completely unaware that they had lost holiday pay entitlement. This was further supported by reports of providers seeking non-disclosure agreements with workers where they agreed to pay out-of-date holiday entitlement once they had been found out. All of this would seem to support the perception that something was not right; it might have been legal, but it was morally indefensible.
When it comes to any form of misconduct, whether withholding holiday pay or skimming money from workers, Professional Passport requires the highest levels of transparency to workers. If a worker has suffered any loss, and the agreed standards have been abused, then a provider would be suspended until all workers impacted have been identified and recompensed. Only then would Professional Passport consider reinstating a provider on its approved list.
Specifically, on holiday pay, Professional Passport requires all of its providers to write to all workers outlining holiday balances in their holiday fund prior to the ‘holiday year’ end and advise them how much is available, how to claim the amount, the consequences of not claiming, and how to request a concession to roll over the pay into the next holiday year. The vast majority of Professional Passport’s providers will either automatically pay it out in the last pay run or roll it over to the next year. This level of communication between the providers and the contractors is imperative.
Professional Passport also requires all its providers to automatically pay any holiday pay entitlement when a worker leaves.
Professional Passport’s terms also dictate that it has the power to approach the software companies and request reports to confirm that standards are being applied correctly. These reports do not hold any personally identifiable data but provide a clear audit trail of what has been accrued, what has been paid out and what has been rolled over to the next year. This unimpeded open-door access to key provider data covers many areas and sets standards way above anything else in the market.
Skimming has also been making the headlines lately. Put simply, skimming is where a company is not being entirely transparent with its workers on the charges that it applies. They market a charge to a worker, which most would assume to be the total cost to them for using that service, whilst at the same time applying other hidden costs that effectively amount to profit for the provider.
Skimming can take a number of forms but can only thrive and survive where a lack of transparency exists.
One common approach is where a provider has a payslip that summarises all employment costs into one line with a single total value. This would allow a provider to hide any additional charges within this summary and, without carrying out a full analysis and check of the payslip, the hidden costs are unlikely to emerge. Any provider who operates a single-line summary of employment costs should be asked to provide a full breakdown of the costs by either the contractor or recruitment company. A recruitment company recommending contractors to a provider operating these additional hidden charges risks damaging their own reputation when these emerge; even more so if the recruitment company is taking a commission from the provider for each worker.
On skimming, Professional Passport requires all accredited providers to disclose their margin and confirm that this is the only and total cost to the worker. They also have to confirm that all other statutory deductions are being applied at the correct levels with the correct thresholds applied. The pay reports should provide a clear and transparent breakdown of each of these costs for the worker to understand clearly. If a provider was found to be operating outside of these terms then once again they would have to identify all workers that had suffered any loss and recompense them before they would be considered to be reinstated on Professional Passport’s approved provider list.
For far too long, some umbrella firms have been concertedly and consciously conning their workers out of money that is rightfully theirs. The skimming and the scamming need to stop and the cowboys need to be challenged because they are giving the whole industry a bad name.