Potential UKAS accreditation/certification emerging in sector – what this means for agencies and end hirers

Our sector is constantly evolving and another new initiative that you may see entering the marketplace soon are membership organisations or umbrella companies that will carry a UKAS accreditation or certification badge.
 
FCSA has looked carefully at whether to seek UKAS accreditation in order to gain external recognition of our already independently verified FCSA membership process.
 
It is important that we explain why the FCSA has chosen not to seek UKAS accreditation at this stage. This is important because agencies may shortly be presented with an FCSA accredited umbrella or a UKAS accredited umbrella.
 

So, what is the difference?

 
FCSA – Every FCSA member that carries the umbrella FCSA badge has to undergo a full, evidenced, and independent assessment every year. This covers every aspect of employment law and tax legislation. 
 
It is extensive and evidenced on every aspect of legislation by the most recognised legal/tax experts in the sector. These fully qualified and regulated experts are wholly independent and typically will carry out the annual assessment over a two-month period. It takes that long to ensure and test every aspect of an FCSA’s member’s umbrella practice.
 
In addition, the FCSA and its members choose to design and implement working practices that go beyond just legislative requirements so that the supply chain is assured that an FCSA company is evidentially tested by this process every year, but also acts as a beacon of best practice, thus giving the supply chain the best possible assurance of fully compliant and ethical practice in the industry.
 
UKAS – UKAS accreditation of umbrella companies is very different. We have consulted at length with UKAS and can share the following summary which has led us to conclude that UKAS accreditation is not appropriate at this stage:
 
UKAS accreditation does NOT give accreditation to the umbrella company. It only gives accreditation to the body which awards a form of approval or certificate to the umbrella company.
 
The membership body that gains UKAS accreditation is judged on two criteria:
 
1. ISO 17065 – This is called a conformity assessment and looks at the process and management systems of the membership body who award some form of approval/certificate to umbrella companies.
 
2. ISO 17067 – This standard deals with the actual process/management system of how the approval/certificate is awarded.
 
These are generic ISO standards and require no knowledge of how an umbrella company works or whether it is compliant or not. These standards give NO assurance of compliance or touch on any aspect of employment law or tax/PAYE legislation. 
 
In our discussions with UKAS, they were happy to admit that they had no knowledge of the umbrella or outsourced sector and would only accredit management systems.
 
We should remind ourselves and our agency partners that FCSA members invest very large sums of money in our assessment process because we are the only body in the sector who use the very best legal and tax experts to comprehensively test full compliance. That is where our funds are invested. A UKAS badge will NOT offer this assurance to your agency partners.
 
We concluded that applying for UKAS accreditation gave no further assurance to the supply chain of ethical and compliant practice and we would go further and suggest that recruitment agencies ask the following questions when choosing between an FCSA or UKAS umbrella:  
 
• Exactly who and how are the compliance standards assessed? (Both legal and financial)
 
• Is the test of these standards carried out by a fully independent and qualified source? (FCSA assessors have no legal/directorial relationship with FCSA)
 
• Exactly what is assessed and what evidence is provided to support that assessment? Does the test cover every aspect of employment law and financial regulation that applies to umbrella employment?
 
We now operate in times where liability moves through the supply chain and so we hope this information helps you to inform and support your agency and end hirer clients if and when the UKAS badge appears in our sector.
 
FCSA applaud any initiative that truly aims to create a more compliant choice in our sector, but it is important for our supply chain partners to understand that UKAS assesses management systems and processes not detailed compliance. 

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