Is an FCSA Independent Assessment Actually Independent? Contractor Voice Hears from Whistle-blowers on the Inside…

At contractorvoice.org, we are no stranger to calling out the FCSA and its members on questionable conduct and malpractice. We now reveal the shocking outcome of an investigation that undermines the entire compliance standard upon which the FCSA markets itself as the gold standard for the temporary workforce sector.

With no statutory basis, or regulatory oversight, and with the influence the FCSA and many of its members have over the sector, we believe it is important that their failings are made public so that users of their services do not blindly accept the marketing spin.

We have had our suspicions, for quite some time, that the so called “independent Compliance Assessments” (note the importance of not referring to the process as an ‘audit’) can be manipulated to ensure a member passes and receives the unofficial FCSA ‘accreditation’. However, with a recent influx of whistle-blowers, all having worked for FCSA members and one of them confirming that they worked for “one of the bigger” umbrellas, the process must be called into question; all of the sources also confirmed that the holiday pay and skimming scams do exist and that they run into £millions of intentionally withheld pay.

They all explained about the application process, specifically the use of the financial and legal assessors that the FCSA promotes the use of.

So, what’s involved in becoming a member?

When you first approach the FCSA hoping to become a member, you are required to satisfy some pre-requisites, such as how long you’ve been established, number of clients, company size etc… you then face the basic due diligence checks, with checks in place for directors specifically. It all seems fine up until here, yes?

This is where it all goes wrong

Basically, the assessors are marking their own homework. Before the “independent assessment”, the assessors have fixed the exam as they have given the questions and coached to ensure that the correct answers are provided. This isn’t how the FCSA describes how the assessment process works – Contractor Voice really struggles to see the independence!

The whistle-blowers say that the FCSA request that its panel assessors do the assessment preparation. Once they have charged an applicant a consultancy fee, they will produce a confidential report which details the changes that are needed in order to pass an FCSA membership application. The changes will be made to then proceed to the FCSA 3-stage review process. The FCSA will then charge a heavy assessment fee to assess the application. The same assessors will get back involved to undertake the assessment to ensure the “independent” assessment is passed.

One whistle-blower openly told us that they are “applying for jobs outside of this industry because [they] can’t believe how shoddy this all is”. Another describes this process as “a sham” which “the legal and finance regulators would not approve of”, noting that “the supply chain has no idea that this is happening”.

Is it a “review” or “audit”?

When a company passes the ‘Code of Compliance Review’, they are added to the list of members on the FCSA website or stay on it after a successful annual review – the companies then proudly, but totally incorrectly, say they have passed an “audit”, no doubt to give the false impression that an assessor has had a deep dive into how the company operates.

The FCSA state in their Code of Compliance that its ‘accreditation’ is only a review of documentation provided by members and that the assessors merely rely on the information provided and do not perform any independent checks to verify what is provided. Can anyone see the glaring opportunity here to falsify information?

More Importantly, the FCSA state that “the review does not constitute any form of independent audit of the business in question and should not be held out to be, or be taken, as such.” However, on achieving FCSA membership and when passing the annual review, the FCSA is happy for its members to refer to it as an ‘audit’, despite this definitely not being the case and the Code stating that it must not be held out to be.

A cursory Google search of “FCSA Audit” reveals that Pendragon Consultancy, ForeTwo Group, Liquid Friday, BrooksonOne and even the FCSA themselves in one (probably incorrectly signed off) document refer to the compliance checks as an audit; this is taking marketing spin to the extreme!

So, if the FCSA compliance reviews are not an audit, why is it not sanctioning members for misapplying the Code?

Perhaps because the marketing of an “audit” elevates the FCSA when incorrectly advertised and, as a result, perceived to be a true audit. With high profile sector influencers, like Janet DeHaviland who is apparently working closely with JobsAware, why would the FCSA want to discourage its members from presenting it for more than it is?

The FCSA also refer to this process as an ‘audit’ in their 2019 document of how to achieve accreditation, despite their Codes at the time stating that it was not an audit (as detailed above) and should not be held out as such. Possibly an error of the marketing personnel, but surely one that ought to be corrected!

When are the businesses in the supply chain going to realise that the so called accreditation is not an audit and it provides no protection for businesses in the supply chain, as made perfectly clear in the FCSA Code of Compliance?

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