Top 10 Tips for Choosing an Umbrella Company

IR35 reform took place in 2017 and was updated/ extended to the private sector in April 2021, and since that date, there has been a marked increase in contractors looking for umbrella payroll services. To briefly recap a few educational articles we’ve released in the past – if your end client deems you to be inside IR35, you must operate under an employed status, paid with all PAYE deductions. For a variety of reasons many end clients do not want to employ temporary workers: it impacts their overheads, increases demands on HR, increases their payroll workload and means additional responsibilities post assignment terms – just to name a few. So, engaging an umbrella company as the employer is the solution for most, but where do you start with the umbrella selection process?

There is a huge number of umbrella businesses on the market and selecting the right umbrella for you can be a little overwhelming. So what should you look for in a brolly?

Here are a few tips that we suggest:

1. Is the umbrella a UK incorporated company?

Always do a quick check on Companies House to see if the umbrella is incorporated in the UK. Their website may indicate it is, but that can sometimes be an office address, it’s always worth a quick look.

If or when you register with an umbrella, check the paperwork that follows – ensure that the contract you sign names the umbrella company that you believe you have registered with. If another company name is used, always ask why.

UC Contractors UK registration details are here.

2. Are you provided with a full breakdown of take-home pay before signing up?

Always ask for a full pay illustration/quote from your prospective umbrella. This should give you a clear breakdown of all deductions based on your contractual rate and should result in a very close estimation of your net take-home pay.

When comparing illustrations from umbrellas check the exact specifics as to what you have been provided. This is because some companies will assume a working month of 21 days, or a working week of 37.5 hours, both of which may differ from your actual circumstances and could alter the final take home figure provided. Also, most illustrations will be created based upon the standard tax code which is currently 1275L. If you know that your tax code is different, you have another job or any deductions such as a student loan, let them know. Be specific, the umbrella should be able to work from your lead.

Remember, every umbrella should be offering a very similar take-home, within only a few pounds difference based on their margin/fee. All taxes and national insurances should also be similar.

UC Contractors will offer an indepth take-home illustration upon your request. This will include all fees and deductions for your review.

3. Is there entry or exit fees?

Although these fees are few and far between now, always check that there is no tie into the brolly; application and termination fees should not apply – you should have free will over joining or leaving without penalty. Also, be sure to ask about their minimum requirements for your employment, these may differ between umbrellas, notably minimum terms, minimum rates and any notice periods.

UC Contractors has no entry or exit fees and will only charge you fees when you are actively billing and there is no minimum term or notice period. We do have a minimum hourly contract rate – this is to protect minimum wage thresholds, ask us for details.

4. What should the umbrella margin look like?

The margin is the fee that the umbrella takes for the employment administration and payroll processing.

Some umbrella companies charge a percentage of your earnings, so if you are a high earner this can be quite significant. Others charge a flat weekly or monthly rate based on how often you process timesheets.

Margins can differ massively from company to company. As a word warning though, running an umbrella company is a costly venture, quality customer service representatives and reliable software are noted overheads – the old adage applies, you get what you pay for.

5. What the holiday pay policy?

There are several ways that holiday pay can work with an umbrella. It can be accrued or advanced every time they make payment to you. (Your payslip and contract terms should specify). Either way, you are entitled to it – if there appears to be any confusion over holiday pay please ask the umbrella, they should be able to provide you with a full policy. If they don’t, it may be a red flag.

6. Is anyone you trust recommending them?

The umbrella world is the same as any other customer-facing industry, word-of-mouth and recommendations are a great indicator of quality service and product. Many contractors will take to social media to ask for recommendations, and you can be sure that those who have not received expected service levels will say their piece also. If colleagues, friends and peers have a positive experience, it is a good indication that you will too.

At UC Contractors we constantly seek feedback from our contractors, we use this to refine our processes and service levels. Over the years we received hundreds of recommendations and colleague referrals due to our customer service levels and reliability.

7. Can you reach them on the phone? If so do they have the answers you’re looking for?

Many larger umbrella companies have a reputation of being unreachable when something goes wrong. Test this out early, find a number on their website and give it a call, if a friendly customer service rep answers then it’s a good indicator that they’ll be available when you need them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; with employment legislation and rights changing constantly, a good umbrella company will educate their representatives to be able to answer any concerns that you may have.

Ultimately, the umbrella is dealing with your monetary affairs, you need to be confident that you will be looked after by friendly, polite, efficient, responsive, proactive experts.

One of UC Contractors consistent objectives is to put the contractor first – we are available via email when you need us –

8. What about your pension?

Working via an umbrella means you are deemed to have an employed status – this means that you must be offered pension provision.

Most umbrella companies will offer a standard auto-enrolment model for your employment, your contributions towards your pension can be altered upon request. Others may reference salary sacrifice, be careful here, the definition of salary sacrifice in the eyes of HMRC may not quite reflect what the umbrella is offering – do your research and ask questions.

UC Contractors auto enrolls you to the NEST pension plan, you will be notified of this and can opt-out of it and change contributions upon request.

9. “Hi is that Joe, Mel, Dennis, Sheila or Bob today?”

Looking after you should be a priority for your umbrella company, having a designated contractor service rep during your on boarding process and a small friendly team afterwards means that you have a reliable contact point which understands your assignment terms and your contracting journey so far. It also speaks for the integrity of the umbrella, having the confidence to assign a representative to you means there are no concerns over staff turn-over, i.e. it’s a nice place to work – generally that means a happier, more knowledgeable representative for you.

When you join UC Contractors you’ll be assigned a personal contractor specialist during your onboarding process who you can contact as and when needed, we have multiple communication channels, please simply ask to speak with your specialist when prompted.

10. Strange terms

If you see any strange terms in your contract that are unfamiliar, always question these with the umbrella company and ask them to explain further. It is important to understand what you are signing before you put your name on the dotted line.
UC Contractors is a PAYE umbrella payroll platform – we will only ever pay you, on a PAYE basis.

To conclude, there is a lot to consider when choosing your umbrella company, it requires a lot of thought and research on your part. But reliable, umbrella companies are out there and we believe UC Contractors is one of them – try us out, email us directly at we’ll be happy to explain all of our processes and procedures with you in full.

Top 10 Tips For Choosing An Umbrella Company

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