Welcome to Contractor Voice,
My name is Jacob Bellas, a contractor, and I was employed by the NHS for over four years. I moved into contracting as I wanted to gain more experience and knowledge on how different hospitals operated and exposure to different specialities. I have been contracting for around eight years now and have worked in more than twenty different Trusts.
I saw first-hand and experienced the multiple ways in which contractors feel isolated, forced to accept varied pay rates, jump from one umbrella to the next and get drawn into suspect tax avoidance schemes. Until you meet and grow your network with other contractors, you have little choice but to believe what your agency consultant tells you. Whilst there are many really good consultants, there are also many that are looking after themselves.
A significant portion of the contractor colleagues that I worked with didn’t appreciate or fully understand that they were employees through an umbrella company and were entitled to the same legal rights and entitlements as directly engaged on-payroll employees; most consider themselves to be in a form of self-employment.
This means that contractors often overlook the implication of changing employers and move payroll companies frequently, often on the direction of the agency consultant for no other reason other than to be paid a kick back from the new umbrella.
I fell victim to an umbrella company ‘phoenixing’ – folding one company and reopening a new company to continue their practice. All Holiday Pay deductions had been retained by the previous (now closed) company, so I lost out on several thousand pounds. This was around 8 years ago but when I listened to the BBC 4 Radio Moneybox programme earlier this year, detailing those similar practices were still happening at the expense of contractors, I decided that enough was enough and that, as contractors, we needed to group together to get the practice of ‘pocketing’ Holiday Pay closed down – the only way I can see this working is with a change in the law.
The end client, whether that be the NHS or another, has paid money to an umbrella company (often via an agency) that is inclusive of Holiday Pay with the intention that it will be paid to the contractor as it is rightfully theirs as they have worked for it; I do not believe that it was envisioned by the drafters of the legislation that this pay would be retained by the employers.
I’m amazed at how widespread the practice is of ‘pocketing’ Holiday Pay, and the volumes of money that seemingly go unclaimed and unpaid to contractors is vast. I would like to see a change in the law that prevents this malpractice, before addressing the other issues within the sector that require attention.
Currently there is no regulation of umbrella companies and, whilst the non-regulated accreditations are attempting to improve standards, there is no accountability when their codes of practice are broken or ignored.
Ultimately, I would like to see the companies that have been engaging in any immoral practice at the expense of contractors called out and the contractors that have been wrongly and immorally put in a position where they are out of pocket, paid what is rightfully owed to them.
Throughout my journey so far with Contractor Voice I have been amazed at how much support there is for contractors; I have had some fantastic conversations with extremely influential people within the sector, who are not only supportive of our campaign but are also battling for change.
My advice for contractors currently, whilst we fight for this change, is to learn from your own and the experiences of others, there is information online and a range of people campaigning for positive changes within the sector, check your payslip every week and don’t be afraid to ask questions.