Challenging umbrella company stereotypes

After a 20-year career in customer service, Gareth Murphy joined the Workr ranks as a team leader. His experience has given him a deep understanding of what ‘best in class’ service looks like, and it’s something that he’s since implemented here. Of course, that takes a lot of listening to current clients and other contractors… 

Aside from hearing that we should bring on more self-serve mechanics, digital channels and other features that make our service more accessible, Gareth found that we also needed to work on removing the stigma around umbrella companies. We’re proud to be an umbrella company, but they do have a mixed reputation in recruitment. 

So Gareth made it his mission not only to make our service the best that it can be, but also to reshape the industry at large. Here, he explains why.

How did you get into the umbrella sector?

I started off as an advisor on the phone. I enjoyed speaking to people and thought I could make a career out of it, so it felt like a natural move to become a team leader at Workr Umbrella. I’ve since progressed to the role of Head of Customer Experience, and endeavour to impart some of the tips, tricks and knowledge I’ve picked up along the way.

Before I can actually make a difference to anyone’s experience though, I actually need to find out what people want to change. That means creating feedback forms, running focus groups with agencies, and calling customers directly to gain a better sense of their challenges and needs. 

What does being Head of Customer Experience look like on a day-to-day basis?

Ultimately, I review our processes and help shape the customer journey. As mentioned, that means getting feedback from every available stakeholder I can, and bringing it all together into a list of actions we can take that will improve our customer experience here at Workr.

For example, it’s no secret that people want to be paid, and be paid on time. Due to the nature of certain projects that contractors work on, delays and pushbacks can affect everyone’s wallet. So part of my job is both to prevent these delays from happening and to manage expectations when it comes to pay calculation.

A lot of job advertisements don’t factor in the various fees that are subsequently deducted from a contractor’s wage. Naturally, when they see their take-home pay fall short of what they’d planned for, someone needs to articulate what these charges are and why they’re worth it.

What are the challenges for you?

A large part of my day consists of making it clear to contractors what, when and how they will be paid – from the very start of their relationship with us. That way, there’s no confusion when it comes to payment, plus they have a better understanding of the benefits of our service.

The trouble is that non-compliant umbrella companies have in the past misled contractors around pay. And, on some occasions, these malignant organisations will sidestep paying certain taxes in order to offer more money. Of course, if (and inevitably when) the taxman arrives to collect payment, it’s the contractor’s door they knock on.

I understand why these individuals choose the higher salary. There’s no shortage of roles where an extra £100 is considered life-changing. But these short-term gains simply can’t outweigh the benefits we offer.

How do you overcome these challenges?

I educate contractors on how a compliant umbrella service has many advantages over a non-compliant organisation. What’s more, I deliver on our promise of a tailored service that supports the individual contractor on their mission to maximise their income.

Some of the benefits that usually motivate contractors include SSP, maternity pay, paternity pay, and a cash health plan. The cash health plan is especially useful as it allows contractors to collect up to £670 at the end of the year for the likes of dental check-ups and optician appointments.

It’s these perks that keep our customers choosing us over those unscrupulous businesses that try to tempt them with false promises of higher pay.

What do you predict will be the next big industry change?

The proposed National Insurance rise could cause agencies to up their rates. As they handle both employers and the contractors themselves, it may be the agencies who have to pick up the bill when it comes to an increase in taxation.

This, of course, is all the more reason to build up trust with our network and explain what the higher fees are and why they have been introduced.

To discuss how best to approach this, or if you have any ideas around how we can improve our service further, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Email

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