Proof that Numbermill, an FCSA Umbrella Company, Engaged Workers in Hybrid Contracts Leading to Below National Minimum Wage Payments

After Contractor Voice published evidence of NumberMill (an FCSA member) engaging contractors via a Hybrid Contract Model (EDM), we reached out to the FCSA asking for confirmation that NumberMill and their practices would be investigated. When asked the question, An FCSA spokesperson stated that the “FCSA currently have no further statement to make on this specific case over and above the statement we released earlier”.

Three months on from Contractor Voice’s initial exposé on hybrid contracts, we’ve been inundated with further evidence from concerned recruitment agencies and workers. Today, we’re revealing a damning piece of communication between a recruitment agency and Numbermill, which clearly shows a deliberate involvement in contracts that result in workers being paid below the national minimum wage (NMW).

  1. The Email Exchange

A recruitment agency reached out to us after losing a contract following one of their clients raising concerns that their workers, contracted through NumberMill, were receiving less than the NMW. Promises made by NumberMill of wage compliance were proven hollow when challenged by the end hirer with evidence of underpayment.

When questioned by the agencies, the onboarding manager wrote the following email for the agency to send to the end hirer:

The end client’s reply underscored their ethical stance:

“I understand the principle of contract for services opposed to contract of employment. I understand that this allows XXXXXX to work below minimum wage. This is however not a practice that is in line with our company values.”

The agency consequently lost the contract with the End-Client, a direct result of trusting an FCSA-accredited umbrella company with dubious practices.

Moreover, this email shows clear intent by NumberMill to engineer a contractual relationship with some of their workers to deprive them of their most fundamental rights.

  1. Why is the FCSA turning a blind eye?

The prevalence of such practices among FCSA members remains uncertain. Yet, the absence of thorough investigations by the FCSA into the hybrid model’s use, as exposed in the contract for service revealed by Contractor Voice, is deeply troubling.

Adding to the concern is the dual role of Numbermill’s owner, who also sits on the FCSA board, raising questions about impartiality and oversight within the FCSA.

Are other members using similar contracts? Are these contracts being adequately reviewed by assessors like DBO, Ernst & Young, and JML, or are they being conveniently hidden by umbrella companies like Numbermill? Is the nature of the engagement of contractors by umbrella companies checked by the assessors?

The liabilities of agencies and workers who trust FCSA umbrella companies are on the line, and the responsibility of the FCSA is to take this evidence into consideration.

  1. A Modern Slavery Issue

Failing to pay the NMW undermines basic societal protections for the most vulnerable, bordering on modern slavery. The email from Numbermill not only shows a blatant disregard for these protections but indicates a deliberate intent to circumvent them. We have since learnt that payroll software providers have protection measures in their software to prevent paying below NMW, unfortunately the NumberMill payslip, published by Contractor Voice last year, details one unit; this means that the software’s mechanisms for identifying payments below NMW would not trigger and the warning mechanisms would be circumnavigated.

After publishing the contract for services that Contractor’s Voice received from a worker that shows the use of a hybrid contract (also called elective deduction model), the FCSA made a public response:

“This is not correct, FCSA specifically proscribes the use of this model. The worker was issued with and signed a Contract for Services. The worker’s engagement by NMPCFS Ltd lasted a total of eight weeks from Tax Week 5 to Tax Week 13 of the 2021-2022 tax year.

The FCSA’s swift dismissal of our initial findings, resolved for them in a mere 24 hours, is inadequate. Such issues cannot be brushed aside; they demand serious attention and action.

  1. What next

In light of these revelations, we call for a comprehensive investigation by the FCSA into the practices of Numbermill and other members possibly engaged in similar activities. Furthermore, we seek a formal apology from the FCSA for their initial dismissive response to our findings. It’s time for accountability and rectification. Contractor Voice remains committed to uncovering the truth and advocating for the rights of workers across the industry.

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