FCSA could name and shame non-compliant firms, says new CEO

Chris Bryce, new CEO of the FCSA, speaks to Recruiter in an exclusive interview.

The new CEO of the Freelancer and Contractor Services Association (FCSA) says there is “a possibility” that the umbrella company trade body could look to ‘name and shame’ companies in the sector that ignore compliant practices and don’t uphold tax obligations.

Speaking exclusively to Recruiter, Chris Bryce said that HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) already publishes a so-called ‘warning list’ about errant umbrellas, “and I don’t see why FCSA wouldn’t be able to do that, subject to legal advice. We have to be cautious in that regard”, he said. “Having said that, where we have conclusive evidence of bad actors, I see no reason why we shouldn’t publish the evidence and ‘name and shame’.”

Bryce, who succeeded former FCSA CEO Phil Pluck in January, went on to say that he would need to discuss such a practice with the FCSA board and its members, “but my own personal view is yes, I see that as a possibility”.

In February, government departments HMRC, Treasury and Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy concluded a three-month consultation around the umbrella company market. The call for evidence invited views from stakeholders on the role that umbrella companies play in the labour market, and how they interact with the tax and employment rights systems.

It set out the concerns that have been raised by some stakeholders, as well as government action already taken to tackle tax non-compliance and improve protection for workers.

Asked if he believed the consultation would have any impact on the Off-Payroll Working Rules (IR35) themselves, Bryce said he expected the focus to be specifically around the UK umbrella market. “It’s always nice to think that government might change its mind on IR35. However, that’s not the remit of this consultation, so I very much doubt any influence in that direction.”

Bryce also discussed the threats of cybersecurity and company cloning on the umbrella market, which has recently experienced instances of both that forced systems outages and other damage on the sector and contractors alike. “FCSA has to take the view that all umbrella companies need to be ever more vigilant about cybersecurity, that they need to have plans in place to deal with any attacks and any system outages,” Bryce said.

“Those plans must be focused on communicating to and getting payments to the workers that they employ. FCSA is actively reviewing what we can do to help that happen, and to perhaps amend our codes to reflect the requirement for cybersecurity,” Bryce said. “I think it would not be completely impossible for FCSA to actually include such requirements in our codes. That’s something we’re investigation right now.”

With regard to cloning, which is generally carried out through manual activity, Bryce said, “I think that form of attack is on the rise, and FCSA are urging the various authorities involved in defending against that kind of attack to form a working group and to tackle this far more rapidly.”

FCSA will submit advice and recommendations to government on improving the approach to handling cloning attacks.

Bryce is a former CEO of IPSE, the contractors’ and freelancers’ trade body.

Image credit | Getty

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