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Almost 50,000 ‘mini umbrella’ companies have been created in the past five years as a way of avoiding hirers’ national insurance liabilities, according to a BBC investigation.

The File on 4 programme’s probe found that these mini-umbrella companies, or MUCs, were even being used for workers in Covid test centres run by G4S.

The MUCs are set up to exploit the government’s Employment Allo

wance, which allows companies to claim National Insurance discounts of up to £4,000 per year as an incentive to take on more workers.

Usually, employers have to pay 13.8% in NI contributions on employee earnings if they earn more than £170 per week.

Some recruitment agencies are employing large numbers of workers through a series of MUCs – as each one has only a small number of employees, it is able to benefit from the NI discount and NI is avoided for all these workers.

Typically, the MUC provider sets up a UK company with British directors, who resign shortly after incorporation and are replaced by foreign directors, making it difficult for HMRC to pursue the company.

According to the BBC investigation, the majority of these foreign directors are based in the Philippines, with some 40,000 Filipinos recruited via Facebook and word of mouth.

“It is a fraudulent employment model that presents an organised crime threat to the UK Exchequer costing ‘hundreds of millions of pounds’ in lost taxes,” commented Clarke Bowles​, Director of Strategic Sales at Parasol Group.

“As a fully compliant umbrella company, it is disappointing that non-compliant models are still operating in our industry. Once again highlighting the urgent need for regulation, something ourselves and others have been pushing for over the last few years. Regulation is the best way to prevent abuse of the tax system and to protect worker rights.”

Often workers are unaware they are involved in such schemes. The BBC report included one employee working at a Covid testing site run by G4S who didn’t know anything about the MUC paying him until he received his first payslip and noted that neither G4S nor the agency that hired him were listed.

Instead, he appeared to have been paid by a newly formed company with a director in the Philippines. In response to the investigation, G4S said when the matter came to its attention HMRC had been notified.

Is ignorance a defence?

While it is perhaps understandable that workers could be duped into working via such companies, Phil Pluck, chief executive of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association (FCSA), questioned whether or not employers and agencies could claim to have been similarly innocent.

“Some of the examples illustrated show MUCs that were only a month old and had directors in the Philippines. It does beg the question; what due diligence did the end hirers and recruitment agencies actually do before sending contractors in the direction of these crooks?

“Clearly, we still need to help educate much of the supply chain and the contractor. FCSA and its members have produced several guides to help steer both companies and contractors away from unlawful players who are NOT umbrella firms but simply using that model as a means to steal from contractors and UK government.”

HMRC has been warning about MUC abuse since 2015, and issued new advice this week following the BBC report.

It said that business models for MUCs were constantly evolving, but that unusual company names with unrelated business activity and foreign national directors were just a few of the things companies should look out for.

It also warned: “Every business which either places or uses temporary labour should be aware of the potential dangers posed to their business by mini umbrella company fraud in their supply chain.

“Not only can a fraudulent supply chain lead to reputational and financial damage to your business, but your workers may not receive all they’re entitled to.”

The last point is an important one, agreed Bowles. “Predominantly the headlines in the press recently are about loss in tax, however workers who are moved around frequently don’t know who to look to for their employment rights such as sick pay or maternity/paternity, they may not qualify for autoenrollment pension or qualify for week 12 worker rights due to the frequency of movement.”

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Talent Solutions

The gala awards ceremony will take place on 21 September in London

More than 20 distinguished experts from the talent acquisition industry convened on Thursday, 10 August, for a day of intense deliberation and spirited discussions – the TIARA Talent Solutions Awards judging day! The occasion marked the judging of the prestigious TIARA Talent Solutions Awards, where the industry’s best were determined across 11 distinct categories, culminating in the crowning of the much-coveted title of Talent Solutions Provider of the Year.

Throughout the day, the venue hummed with lively debates and exchanges of insights as the panel of judges, comprising leading figures in the talent acquisition field, pored over submissions and deliberated to determine the most deserving winners.

A full roster of the esteemed judging panel can be found on the official awards website. The judges showcase the collective experience and expertise that underpinned the decision-making process. The inclusion of a diverse array of perspectives ensured a comprehensive evaluation of the finalists and reflected the industry’s commitment to recognising excellence across various dimensions of talent solutions.

Winners will be announced at a grand awards ceremony scheduled to take place at the splendid Pan Pacific London on Thursday, 21 September. The event promises to be a celebration of innovation, dedication, and achievement in the realm of talent acquisition.

Tickets for the awards ceremony are available for purchase on the official website, providing an opportunity to join the industry’s luminaries in celebrating excellence in talent solutions.

For those seeking to stay updated on the event and the latest developments, the official awards website will serve as a reliable source of information and news. As the countdown begins to the glittering awards night, the anticipation and excitement continue to build among the talent acquisition community.

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The Awards ceremony will be held at the stunning Pan Pacific Hotel in London

TALiNT Partners has announced the finalists for the prestigious 2023 TIARA Talent Solutions Awards Europe. These awards aim to recognise the top companies in the RPO, MSP, and Talent Solutions market.

The event has gained significant recognition as the industry benchmark, attracting both previous finalists and new entrants. This year’s nominations showcase the sector’s continued growth and dynamism despite the challenges faced.

Ken Brotherston, Chief Executive of TALiNT Partners, expressed his delight at the engagement from industry leaders, saying, “In what has been a more challenging year, more than ever our Awards are a true celebration across the market, from the global majors, regional leaders, fast-growing scale-ups, and niche providers, all demonstrating excellence in their impact for employers and their own employees.”

The shortlisted entries will now advance to the next round of judging, where a distinguished panel of HR and Talent Acquisition experts will independently score each finalist. In a few weeks, the judges will convene to discuss and determine the winners across the 11 categories, including the prestigious Talent Solutions Provider of the Year award.

The winners, including the recipient of the highly coveted Lifetime Achievement Award, will be unveiled at the black-tie awards ceremony on Thursday, 21st of September. The event will take place at the stunning Pan Pacific Hotel in London, adding glamour to the celebration.

The 2023 awards campaign is supported by headline partner Cornerstone and sponsored by Amdaris, Giant Group, Parasol, Sonovate, and Stratigens. Their contribution to the event highlights the importance of collaboration in recognising excellence within the talent solutions industry.

For the full list of Talent Solutions Europe 2023 finalists, interested individuals can click here.

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The Lifetime Achievement Award was awarded to Sue Marks, Founder of Cielo

On June 8, TALiNT Partners announced the winners of the 2023 TIARA Talent Solutions Awards US at a spectacular gala dinner at the beautiful Georgia Aquarium, attended by CEO’s, Marketing Directors, and senior leaders of the nation’s top RPO, MSP talent solutions providers. Guests weren’t limited to people however, as the large fish tank created a beautiful and original backdrop to the Awards proceedings!

“Having previously delivered these awards virtually, it was fantastic to see so many different organizations come together in person to showcase the ever-growing range of finalists, which is a clear demonstration of the health and vitality of the talent solutions sector” said Ray Culver, Country Manager Americas, TALiNT Partners.

The TIARA Talent Solutions Awards US 2023 campaign was supported by headline sponsor Cornerstone and awards sponsors Beeline, Dasro, IMCS Group, Omni Inclusive, Scoutlogic, TalentNet and TekWissen.

Sevenstep were crowned the overall winner and received the Talent Solutions Provider of the Year Award, having also picked up The Scoutlogic Client Service Award and The Best Talent Solutions Firm To Work For award.

The awards evening also saw the presentation of a very special award – The Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to Sue Marks, Founder of Cielo Talent. “Sue has incredible strategic vision, and, from the very beginning, she understood how important technology would be in delivering a scalable service to her clients. Approaches that we take for granted now were game changing back then – especially using deep analysis to create a solutions-based, systemic approach to driving better outcomes for her clients and candidates” said Ken Brotherston, Chief Executive, TALiNT Partners.

The full list of Talent Solutions Awards 2023 winners and highly commended companies can be found here.

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TALiNT Partners and Stratigens are proud to announce a strategic partnership which will provide an unparalleled range of talent intelligence solutions to the needs of our members, partners and clients.

Alison Ettridge, CEO of Stratigens said “Companies do research on their customers, their markets and their competitors to inform decisions all the time. With Stratigens, they can now do research on the greatest asset –access to the workforce and people they need to deliver their strategy. Our partnership with TALiNT Partners will support our mission of putting human capital at the heart of business decision making. We are really excited about working with the team to overlay the insight that TALiNT Partners’ network brings with labour market data to empower HR, TA and business leaders to make critical strategic decisions.”

Ken Brotherston, CEO of TALiNT Partners added “for some time we have been looking for a partner to support the insight generated by our network with global workplace data to bring a unique offering to the market. Stratigens is the perfect partner to help us achieve this and together we look forward to continuing to help raise capability in how employers find and keep the people they need, and how staffing and talent solutions providers can better support their clients.”

About Stratigens

Stratigens software is helping the world’s best companies make smarter decisions about where to grow, who to hire from and the diversity of their workforce. We join the dots between the labour market, economics and locations. Putting human capital intelligence at the heart of decision making.

We live in a world rich with skills and geo economic data, but the data is messy, unstructured, big and in thousands of places. Stratigens uses the latest in machine learning and big data to gather, extract, categorise and label the data, and put it into a format that’s easy to digest. So our clients can make smarter, faster, more informed decisions.

Stratigens –

About TALiNT Partners

TALiNT Partners connects the talent ecosystem. We bring together a global network of leading employers and solution providers to make better talent and technology decisions. Providing intelligence, insight and peer-to-peer networking that drives quality, innovation and improves inclusion across the talent ecosystem

TALiNT Partners –


If you would like to know more about the partnership, please contact Ken Brotherston, CEO of TALiNT Partners,

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