Umbrella Company: The Ultimate Guide for Businesses


For international corporations, umbrella companies can provide a seamless solution for hiring in different countries without setting up a legal entity, allowing them to tap into a global talent pool without the hassle and expense of setting up a local branch.

In this guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about umbrella companies, including the benefits and drawbacks of using one, how they work, what to consider before choosing an umbrella company for your business, and how an umbrella company differs from a PEO (Professional Employer Organisation).

What Is An Umbrella Company?

An umbrella company is a company that acts as an employer for independent contractors or freelancers. They are also called employment intermediaries, umbrella agencies, or umbrella organisations.

Umbrella companies take care of administrative tasks such as invoicing, tax payments, and legal compliance while the contractor does their work for clients.

In simple terms, an umbrella company acts as a buffer between the temporary worker and their clients, providing a layer of protection for both parties. Contractors retain their independence but benefit from the support of the umbrella company in managing finances and legal obligations.

How Do Umbrella Companies Work?

When a contractor signs up with a compliant umbrella company, they become an employee of that company. This means they are subject to the same employment rights and benefits as any other employee with a contract of employment, such as statutory sick pay, holiday pay, national insurance contributions, and maternity/paternity leave.

The temporary worker then works for their clients as usual, but instead of invoicing clients directly, they submit their timesheets and business expenses to the umbrella company. The umbrella company then invoices the client on behalf of the contractor and takes care of all the necessary tax and legal deductions.

Once the client pays, the umbrella company deducts their fees for providing their services, such as administration and insurance costs, before paying the remaining amount to the contractor as their salary.

Benefits Of Using An Umbrella Company

An umbrella company offers a range of material benefits for contractors and clients, including:

  • Ease of use: Using an umbrella company simplifies the process of hiring and working with contractors. It eliminates the need for setting up separate contracts, invoicing procedures, statutory benefits, and tax arrangements.
  • Legal compliance: As the contractor's employer, the umbrella company takes care of all employment law obligations, such as national insurance and tax payments, reducing the risk of non-compliance for both parties.
  • Global reach: For businesses looking to expand their talent pool, umbrella companies provide a streamlined solution for hiring contractors in different countries without the added expense and complications of setting up a local entity.
  • Flexibility for contractors: A compliant umbrella company allows contractors to retain their independence while providing them with the benefits and security of traditional employment. This allows them to focus on their work without worrying about the administrative and financial aspects normally related to self-employment.

Drawbacks Of Using An Umbrella Company

While there are many benefits to using an umbrella company, it's essential for businesses also to consider some potential drawbacks, including:

  • Cost: Umbrella companies charge fees for their services, which can eat into both client and contractor's earnings. It's essential to understand the fee structure and compare different umbrella companies before deciding.
  • Less control over hiring: As the contractor's employer, the umbrella company has the final say in who they can work with. This means businesses may not have as much control over their contractors' skills and qualifications as they would with traditional hiring methods.

While these drawbacks certainly aren't deal-breakers, they are important considerations for businesses and contractors when deciding whether to use an umbrella company.

Parties Involved In Umbrella Companies

As you might expect from the term 'umbrella company' itself, several parties are involved in the process. These include:

Client Companies

Client companies are businesses that hire contractors through an umbrella company. They benefit from the flexibility and expertise of independent contractors without having to take on the responsibilities of hiring a permanent employee. 

Individual Workers

The Individual workers are the contractors or freelancers who provide their services to client companies through the umbrella company. They retain their independence but receive the benefits and support of a permanent employee.

Recruitment Agencies

Many umbrella companies work closely with recruitment agencies, who act as the go-between for client companies and contractors. Recruitment agencies source suitable candidates and then refer them to an umbrella company if they don't want to take on the responsibility of recruiting.

Umbrella Companies

Umbrella companies are the intermediaries between client companies and contractors. They take care of all employment-related tasks, from pension contributions to business expenses to tax payments, allowing businesses and contractors to focus on their work without worrying about administrative tasks.

By combining the benefits of traditional employment with the flexibility and independence of self-employment, umbrella companies offer a unique solution for international businesses and umbrella contractors looking to work together seamlessly.

What Is The Purpose Of Umbrella Companies?

One of the primary benefits of using a compliant umbrella company is the sheer number of potential uses and purposes it serves. Some common uses of umbrella companies include:

International Contracting

An umbrella company arrangement provides a streamlined solution without the added expense of setting up a local entity for businesses looking to expand their organisation and hire remote workers or contractors in different countries.

Setting up a local entity in a foreign country can be time-consuming and costly, making it challenging for businesses to access top talent globally. Businesses can easily hire contractors from different countries without worrying about complex tax laws and employment regulations using an umbrella company.

Short-Term Project Work

Similarly, companies looking to undertake short-term projects may find hiring an umbrella company to facilitate temporary assignments more efficient and cost-effective than going through traditional hiring methods.

The umbrella company takes care of all the necessary employment contract paperwork and legal obligations, allowing businesses to focus on project execution without any additional administrative burdens.

Freelance Work

Umbrella companies benefit freelancers who want the security and support of traditional employment without giving up their independence.

By working through an umbrella company, freelancers and those working through a limited company can focus solely on their work while receiving a regular paycheck, insurance coverage, and other essential benefits that typically come with employment.

Independent Contractor Support

Umbrella companies also offer valuable support for independent contractors who may not have the resources or expertise to manage all employment-related tasks themselves. By partnering with an umbrella company, contractors can focus on their work without worrying about invoicing, tax payments, and other administrative tasks.

Overall, umbrella companies serve as a valuable intermediary for businesses and contractors alike,  reducing the cost of employment and providing various benefits and solutions to make the hiring process more streamlined and efficient.

What Services Are Covered By An Umbrella Agency?

An Umbrella company typically offers a range of services to both client companies and contractors, including:

Payroll Services

Umbrella companies handle all aspects of payroll for contractors, including invoicing, tax deductions, and payments. This ensures employee payments are made accurately and on time without additional effort or expense from the client company.

Employment Benefits

Through an umbrella company, contractors can access traditional employment benefits such as sick pay, holiday pay, and pension schemes.

These benefits provide security and support for contractors, making it an attractive option for those who want the autonomy of self-employment without sacrificing job stability.

Legal Compliance

Umbrella companies also take care of all legal obligations related to employment, such as tax payments and insurance coverage. This takes the burden off client companies and contractors, ensuring they comply with local laws and regulations.

Administrative Support

By partnering with an umbrella company, client companies and contractors can focus on their work without worrying about administrative tasks such as invoicing, tax filings, and contract management. This allows for a more streamlined and efficient working relationship.

Invoicing and Payment Processing

Umbrella companies also handle all invoicing and payment processing for contractors, ensuring they are paid accurately and promptly. This eliminates any potential disputes or delays between client companies and contractors.

Tax Management

Umbrella companies have expertise in navigating complex tax laws and regulations, making it easier for contractors to file their taxes accurately. This also ensures that client companies comply with all necessary tax obligations for their international workforce.

Benefits Administration (Healthcare, Retirement Plans)

Aside from traditional employment benefits, umbrella companies may offer additional benefits such as healthcare and retirement plans. This provides contractors with even more support and stability while working independently.

Insurance Coverage (Workers' Compensation, Liability Insurance)

Umbrella companies also provide insurance coverage for contractors, protecting them and their clients from any potential risks or liabilities. This gives peace of mind to both parties and ensures that all legal requirements are met.

What Is The Difference Between An Umbrella Company And A PEO?

Umbrella companies and PEOs overlap in some aspects but are different entities with distinct roles and responsibilities. Before we get into the substantial differences, let's define our terms.

What is a Professional Employer Organisation (PEO)?

A PEO company provides comprehensive HR support and services to their client companies, such as payroll management, employee benefits administration, risk management, and compliance.

They often act as the employer of record for their client's employees, essentially taking over all employment responsibilities.

PEOs can generally be split into two categories: domestic and global.

Domestic PEOs are focused on providing HR support and services within a specific country, while global PEOs offer their services in multiple countries and can help with international expansion.

How Does An Umbrella Company Differ From a PEO?

The critical difference between an umbrella company and a PEO lies in their client relationships. An umbrella company works with individual contractors and provides support and services to them directly.

On the other hand, PEOs typically work with businesses and provide HR services to their employees.

Additionally, while umbrella companies primarily handle payroll-related tasks for contractors, PEOs offer a more comprehensive range of HR services, such as employee benefits and risk management.

Moreover, PEOs often act as the employer of record for their client's employees, while umbrella companies do not.

How To Choose The Right Umbrella Company For Your Needs?

When it comes to choosing the right umbrella company, there are several factors to consider. These factors can vary depending on your business's specific needs and circumstances, but here are some general considerations to keep in mind: 

  • Reputation and track record: Choosing an umbrella company with a good reputation and a proven track record of success is essential. Look for reviews and testimonials from other clients to get an idea of their experiences.
  • Compliance expertise: As mentioned earlier, umbrella companies handle all legal, record of employment, and tax obligations for their clients. Therefore, choosing a company with expertise in compliance matters is crucial to avoid any potential issues.
  • Services offered: Different umbrella companies may offer different services, so assessing your needs and ensuring your chosen company can meet them is important.
  • Cost: Umbrella companies charge fees for their services, so it's essential to consider the cost and how it fits into your budget before deciding.
  • Geographic presence: If you plan to expand internationally, choose an umbrella company with a global presence. This will make navigating various local laws and regulations in different countries easier.

These considerations can help guide your decision when choosing the right umbrella company for your business. It's also a good idea to consult with other businesses or industry professionals who have experience working with umbrella companies for their recommendations and insights.

With the right partner, an umbrella company can significantly benefit your business by streamlining processes and ensuring compliance in all areas of international employment.

Interviewing Potential Umbrella Companies

Once you have a shortlist of potential umbrella companies, you’ll want to conduct an interview to determine which one is the best fit for your business. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

How Do You Ensure Compliance In Different Countries?

Since umbrella companies handle all legal and tax obligations for their clients, it's important to understand how they ensure compliance in various countries. Ask about their compliance expertise and processes to ensure your business will not face any legal or financial issues.

What Services Do You Offer?

As mentioned earlier, umbrella companies may offer different services. It's vital to ask about their specific services and whether they can meet your business's unique needs.

You should also ask about the associated fees for each service, assessing the cost and value for your business. Having a budget for these services can also help narrow down your options.

How Do You Handle Payroll And Taxes?

Payroll and tax management are essential tasks for any company, so it's crucial to understand how the umbrella company handles them.

Ask about their processes and software systems for payroll management and how they ensure accurate tax calculations and timely payments. It's also best to enquire about their understanding of tax and compliance in the country where you will be operating.

Can You Provide References From Other Clients?

A reputable umbrella company should have no problem providing references from satisfied clients. Asking for references can give you a better understanding of the company's services and reputation.

Once you have the references, it's best to check with the clients directly to get their honest feedback and experiences. Word of mouth is usually a reliable source of information.

Do You Have Experience Working With Businesses In Our Industry?

Working with an umbrella company that has experience in your industry can be beneficial. They will better understand any specific compliance requirements or challenges related to your field. Customization of services to meet your industry's needs can also be more accessible with prior experience.

It's essential to ask any other questions that are specific to your business and its unique requirements. Remember, the umbrella company you choose will be an extension of your business, so conducting thorough research and asking relevant questions is crucial in making the right decision.

How Do You Handle Any Potential Disputes Or Issues That May Arise?

Understanding how the umbrella company handles any potential disputes or issues arising during your partnership is important to clarify upfront. Ask about their conflict resolution processes and policies to ensure your business's needs are adequately addressed.

What Is Your Process For Onboarding And Managing Contractors?

As an umbrella company's client, you will work with their contractors. It's essential to ask about their onboarding and management processes for these individuals to ensure a smooth working relationship.

Asking these questions will give you a better understanding of the umbrella company's capabilities, experience, and approach to working with its clients.

It will also help you gauge whether they fit your business and its unique needs.

Is An Umbrella Company The Right Choice For Your Business?

Choosing the right umbrella company is crucial for any business looking to expand internationally.

Once you have chosen the right partner, an umbrella company can significantly benefit your business by streamlining processes and ensuring compliance in all areas of international employment.

Ensure you consider factors such as compliance expertise, services offered, cost, geographic presence, and industry experience when deciding.

If you are still unsure about whether an umbrella company is the right choice for your business, Knit can help.

Our expertise in international employment and compliance can provide you with valuable insights and assistance in finding the right solution for your business.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you navigate the world of global employment.