Would State-Run Umbrella Sector Regulation Ensure Workers Get Paid? 

Umbrella workers unpaid

You may have seen reports of a cyber-attack on Giant Group last week which has resulted in problems for many of their workers who have not been paid – including some lorry drivers which likely exacerbates the fuel shortage situation.  According to a statement on Giant Pay’s website:

“We can confirm that Giant Group was the victim of a sophisticated cyber-attack on September 22nd….  We know everyone is frustrated about the lack of communication and we’d like to offer an explanation; our phone and email systems are integrated in our network and IT infrastructure.  As a result, when we had to close the whole network, our phone and email systems were inaccessible.” 

Obviously we cannot comment on the technicalities of what has happened, but it did get me thinking again about the subject of umbrella sector regulation.


The case for umbrella sector regulation

For many years now I have been calling for the umbrella sector to be regulated because there is systemic abuse of workers by dubious providers who have been allowed to continue unchallenged despite widespread awareness of their dodgy practices.  The problems at Giant clearly do not fall into that category, but it has made me wonder whether it would have been any different if state regulation of the sector had been in place – something that the government first committed to back in 2018.


Would things have been any different?

The short answer is no.  If regulation had already been in place then I don’t think that whatever happened at Giant would have been prevented.  But regulation could mean an independent body where contractors could go to for redress, which could investigate what happened and conclude whether or not the situation was appropriately dealt with.  As things currently stand there is no such avenue for redress, and affected workers have no option but to wait until the problem is resolved.

It is ludicrous that the government has chosen to ignore our many collective calls for regulation of this sector, choosing instead to allow vulnerable workers to continue being at risk of exploitation – you only have to look at loan charge victims to understand the very serious consequences of the government’s continued inaction.


What next for umbrella sector regulation?

I recently met with the very civil servants that have the unenviable task of creating umbrella regulation, and I’m pleased to say that when they do it looks likely that it will be fit for purpose.  They understand the sector, the issues, mischiefs and machinations, and are committed to doing the job well.  I fully support their aims and I’m doing everything possible to help ensure they achieve them.


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