The FCSA has demanded immediate answers from the government regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the impact on agency and umbrella workers. There are still many issues that need clarity to ensure over 600,000 contractors gain access to financial support through the CJRS.
Julia Kermode, Chief Executive at the FCSA, has said: “We need answers and we need them now!”
Two weeks and counting – no response from the government
Five UK-leading professional bodies (including the FCSA) have rallied together to confront the government over issues that have not been addressed regarding the CJRS and agency workers. Despite this happening two weeks ago, the government has failed to provide a response to the urgent concerns that were raised.
The most important question that needs answering is whether “the government intend its support for contingent workers to be limited to minimum wage, or will it confirm that CJRS claims can be made based on the usual pay these workers receive?”
As an FCSA accredited member, Churchill Knight has been in regular communication with the FCSA, and we respect their efforts in searching for vital clarification from the government. Without detailed guidance on the furloughing of agency workers by umbrella companies, the FCSA is not able to advise its members on the best course of action. Churchill Knight, along with the FCSA, Professional Passport, APSCo REC and TEAM, urges the government to step up and provide the reassurance needed for all stakeholders of the temporary employment market.
The FCSA is being bombarded with questions from contractors, recruiters and end-client organisations
Since the CJRS was announced on the 20th March 2020, the FCSA has been criticised “for the perceived failing of umbrella firms to access the coronavirus scheme for their workers.”
The FCSA has stated the following on their website:
“The FCSA’s purpose is to safeguard the long-term future of the professional freelancer sector for the benefit of the UK economy. Whilst promoting compliance in order to protect contractors is our primary focus, it is also our duty as a professional body to lobby government to ensure not only that our members needs are represented to policymakers, but in doing so, we also protect those who they serve, the temporary workforce.
Therefore, and just to quickly recap, on 30 March, that is exactly what the FCSA did having identified several concerning loopholes in the CJRS guidance documents in respect of how contractors’ furlough and holiday pay is to be calculated. We took swift action to lobby the government in order to seek clarity on the ambiguities.”
No government reply would result in devastating consequences for the temporary workforce
When the CJRS was unveiled, there were no doubts that this unprecedented level of support for UK workers was a positive initiative to try and limit the financial hardship caused by COVID-19. However, in failing to address critical issues that have been brought to their attention for many weeks, the government risk letting down over 600,000 contractors and freelancers.
It is not fair that agency workers using PAYE models should be penalised and not protected in the same manner as employees in permanent roles – especially when they are contributing fair amounts of tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Contractors and freelancers need the support of the government more than ever and we sincerely hope the government consider this and respond fairly.
Churchill Knight Umbrella is here for our clients
Churchill Knight Umbrella firmly believe that umbrella employees should be eligible for furloughed leave. We are sure that employment agencies understand that without further guidance and reassurance from the government, we are not able to process the furloughing of their umbrella candidates at this moment.
The only income that umbrella companies receive is the margin retained in exchange for the service offered. Every UK-based umbrella company is currently in a challenging situation. We understand that many of our clients are in desperate need of financial support as part of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. However, as things stand, we are not in a position where we can go ahead and offer furloughed leave.
If we take risks now and claim furloughed pay from the government, we would be taking a reckless gamble because without further clarity; we cannot be certain we can claim this money back. Doing so would put the future of Churchill Knight Umbrella at significant risk of insolvency.
It has been very encouraging to see that 5 of the UK’s leading professional bodies have rallied together to seek clarification from the government regarding umbrella employees and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. We sincerely hope more information is made available soon and that umbrella users are protected, as this is what the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme set out to achieve.
Churchill Knight Umbrella has proactively contacted all of our clients and has asked those who believe they should be eligible for furloughed leave to complete an online form. This way, as soon as we have further guidance from the government, we can take the appropriate action – without hesitation.
Rest assured; we want the very best for our clients.