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Dont tar all umbrellas with the same brush, unions urged

Hundreds of construction workers are today due to descend on Westminster in a demonstration organised by UCATT and Unite, with several other protests taking place across the country as part of a co-ordinated campaign.  

The unions claim tens of thousands of “exploited” construction workers have been forced to work via umbrella companies since legislation designed to combat false self-employment was introduced in April. 

Parasol founder and chief executive Rob Crossland said: “We fully support the government’s efforts to eradicate the scourge of false self-employment in construction and other sectors.

“UCATT and Unite are performing an important role in ensuring that the new legislation does not result in vulnerable workers being exploited.  

“However, what is lacking from the union campaign is a sense of balance. There has been no attempt to distinguish between unethical payroll companies that use dubious methods, and professional employment providers offering contractors and freelancers genuine support. 

“Without clarification, the union campaign risks tarring all providers with the same brush.

“That’s why I believe compliant providers such as ourselves may soon have no option but to abandon the term & lsquo;umbrella company’ and re-define what we do. Indeed, this is an idea we will be raising with the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA), of which Parasol is a founding member.” 

Established in 2000 and part of the Optionis Group, Parasol has employed more than 70,000 contractors and freelancers – offering them guaranteed hours of work, holiday pay, sick pay, paternity/maternity pay and access to a workplace pension.

Managing director Derek Kelly, added, “I have written separately to shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna and shadow exchequer secretary Shabana Mahmood – both of whom are sympathetic to the union campaign – with a view to arranging a meeting.

“My aim was to enable them to see how a compliant provider operates, and to make the point that not all umbrella companies are exploitative cowboys.  

“Unfortunately, Mr Umunna was too busy and I am yet to hear back from Ms Mahmood. This gives the clear impression that Labour is happy to indulge in hyperbole when criticising our sector, but is less keen to take the time to understand its nuances and realities.

“Labour’s unwillingness to engage in a constructive dialogue is disappointing, but not surprising. I can only hope that today’s demonstrations do not tarnish the image of legitimate, compliant employment providers in the eyes of contractors and other skilled contingent workers.”

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