The life of a construction worker employed by an umbrella company

Ben Wray

MPs are investigating umbrella companies

UMBRELLA companies act as a third party between contractors and employees. Their use is widespread in the construction sector, and many construction workers say they have no choice but to be employeed through them. Unions have said they are a tool of exploitation, squeezing construction workers terms & conditions even further. MPs are now investigating umbrella companies followiing complaints by workers that they had lost thousands of pounds. 

At a Scottish Parliamentary Committee on the construction sector on Tuesday [5 February], Unite regional organiser Steven Dillon read out a message the union had received from one worker employed through an umbrella company.

“I wait for a text every Friday to say if I will be working the following week.

“I book a holiday to go away with my family, there’s a real chance my place at work will be taken by another worker, and I’ll have no work.

“I take a day off, I might be replaced.

“I call in sick, I might be replaced.

“If I don’t work every shift I’m offered, no matter how short notice, I might be replaced.

“I pay an umbrella company a fee of £100 per week to get my own wages.

“I have no holiday pay, no sick pay, no unpaid holiday pay.

“I can’t work anywhere else if there’s no work for a few weeks. 

“In the rail industry I can only have one sponsor. 

“My holiday pay is actually a per centage of my net income, that’s taken off when I get it back at gross. So it’s taxed twice.

“I also pay both employers and employees national insurance.”

Picture courtesy of Calogero D’Angelo Favata