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ECA tax concerns over HVCA's agency alliance

The Electrical Contractors Association (ECA) has broadly supported the Building Services Engineering Employment Agency Alliance, set up by the HVCA (see full story), but has raised concerns over “unpaid tax and National Insurance contributions”.

The Alliance aims to ensure agency workers supplied to the building services sector meet certain standards, which are encapsulated in Key Commitments labour agencies will sign up to. Three firms have so far signed up to the Alliance.

The ECA’s Alex Meikle said: “We have recognised for some time that there is a need to influence the growing market for agency supplied operatives in the building services sector, and understand HVCA’s intention to promote dialogue with the agencies through its Alliance.”

However, he said the ECA had some concerns.

He added: “While we are supportive of the principle of greater dialogue, we are also conscious that there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the employment status of the skilled tradesmen and other operatives supplied by agencies to our members. We are concerned that many of these tradesmen are declaring themselves incorrectly to be self-employed CIS businesses or personal service companies.

“There are serious dangers to those individuals and to end user companies of incurring substantial debts for unpaid tax and National Insurance contributions if it is subsequently determined by HMRC that they are not truly self employed.

“For the moment, ECA intends to keep any formal relationship with the agencies under review until these tax and National Insurance implications become clearer.”

Responding to the ECA concerns, Peter Rimmer, director of employment affairs at the HVCA said the Alliance's Key Committments would safeguard against any abuse.

“The Alliance’s Key Commitments place an obligation on agencies to establish the employment status of each worker before a hire takes place and to ensure HMRC-compliant procedures are in place to ensure appropriate tax and National Insurance deductions are made,' he said.

“One of the principal objectives of the Alliance is to engage with the employment business community and facilitate collective dialogue between them and contractors about the whole range of issues that matter – including, health and safety, training and skills, and the treatment of individual workers,' he added.

Read H&V News editor Simon Duddy's blog on the HVCA launching its M&E agency labour initiative here