Umbrella Explained: Contractor Salary and Deductions

You’ve been asked to use an umbrella company, but one aspect that can be confusing is how an umbrella company calculates the salary payment you get at the end of each week or month.

When you’re an employee of a company, the employer offers you an annual or hourly rate and calculates and deducts your tax and NI from that and you receive what’s left. When you work through an umbrella company as an agency worker/contractor, the process works a little differently.
As a contractor, you accept an assignment for an end-client but they do not pay you directly as their employee. There is usually a chain of companies involved in your assignment which the money has to travel through before it reaches you.
It is important to understand how the chain works in order to understand what is happening with the money you are earning.

THE END CLIENT
This is the workplace, the company has a temporary assignment they need a worker for and usually they engage a recruitment agency to find and provide a worker for an agreed fee.

THE RECRUITMENT AGENCY
When used by the end client, the recruitment agency is the company who match the contractor to the assignment(s) they currently have and negotiate the contract details with the end-client (on the contractor’s behalf). While some recruitment agencies choose to employ a temporary contractor on their own payroll, many offer the option to use an intermediary party (which is usually an umbrella company) instead. In this relationship, the liability for all employment related costs and responsibility is passed to the Umbrella Company.

THE UMBRELLA COMPANY
Employs the contractor and takes on all liability for all the employment related costs and responsibilities. They have the responsibility to deduct the relevant tax and NI contributions from your basic rate and pay these over to the HMRC through Real Time Reporting. As a contractor using an umbrella company is beneficial because it allows you to have one employer but undertake multiple assignments offered by multiple agencies. You also have the benefit of being employed and accruing employment benefits such as statutory sick pay and maternity leave etc.

So how does this work in relation to your Salary payments?
When an agency negotiates the assignment rate charged to the end-client, the rate should factor in the following deductions:

  • Employers NI (or NIERS),
  • Holiday Pay,
  • Apprenticeship Levy and
  • The employers Pension Contribution.

And still provide a basic salary rate equivalent to that of a permanent colleague at the end client doing the same role once those deductions have been taken. It is because of these deductions you may often hear an assignment rate called an ‘umbrella’, ‘charge out’ or ‘limited’ rate and you may also be told these rates include an ‘uplift’.

While as a contractor, you may expect to receive the rate quoted for an assignment, however the reality of the situation is that employment costs must be taken into consideration first.

  1. The umbrella company will receive a remittance notification of payment from the agency or end-client, detailing the assignment rate and number of units (hours or days) worked.
  2. When the Umbrella company receives the payment from the agency, the umbrella company retains a small margin or fee (which the contractor is made aware of before they agree to sign up) this is to cover administrative costs, insurances, internal salaries and usual expenditure for a business.
  3. All employment costs are then deducted from the sum; Employers’ NI 13.8%, Apprenticeship Levy 0.5%, any pension contributions (if applicable) as well as a holiday pay
  4. Once all of these deductions have been made, the gross figure (or basic rate) is left and is treated as your earnings upon which employee tax and NI deductions are calculated.
  5. All Tax, NI and pension contributions are reported to the HMRC through the Real Time Reporting system (RTI) to the HMRC and a payslip is issued to the contractor.


    Most umbrella companies do not hide the fact that the Employer’s costs are included within the assignment rate offered by an agency.  At Healthchart we make a conscious effort to let a contractor know about these employment costs during the initial enquiry/application stage, by providing an example payslip or illustration showing the full breakdown.

    In addition to this, from 6th April 2020, the law now requires an agency to provide every contractor and their umbrella company with a copy of a Key Information Document (KID) which will detail all potential deductions that you can expect to see on your payslip – this is to ensure that everything is transparent and there are no unannounced surprises. (If you want to know more, please take the time to review our article on the KID document for more information). Our process is to always send a copy of this over to a contractor as well to ensure that you have the information you need.

    If you are still unsure about how an umbrella company calculates your salary payment, just ask we are always happy to help!

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