How do umbrella companies work?


Trying to understand how an umbrella company works can be confusing. This article will explore what umbrella companies are, their everyday duties and why they are useful.


In this context an umbrella company is a company that acts as an employer to employment agency contractors. It has the responsibility of providing an accurate payroll service. The following process details how an umbrella company pays contractors:

  1. An umbrella company and an employment agency sign a business to business contract, then a contract of employment is signed between the umbrella company and individual contractors
  2. At the end of their working week, the contractor will create a timesheet, detailing how many hours they’ve worked and then get it signed by their client
  3. The contractor will send 2 copies of their timesheet: one to their agency and the other to their umbrella company with additional information concerning any expenses they want to claim
  4. Umbrella company invoices the contractor’s agency for the hours worked and any reimbursable expenses (if claimed)
  5. The agency then invoices the client
  6. The client pays the agency which, in turn, pays the umbrella company
  7. Once the payment is received, the umbrella company deducts tax, national insurance contributions and umbrella services margin before paying the contractor through the PAYE system
  8. The contractor receives their payment along with a payslip (sent by their umbrella company) detailing how their payment was calculated

Note: Points 2-4 above change slightly when a self-billing agreement is in place – we will cover this in a future article.



There are many benefits to registering with an umbrella company, including:

Hassle free

Chasing your client for your payment then calculating and paying your taxes is time-consuming and requires a lot of paperwork, so outsourcing it to an umbrella company saves you valuable time.

Easy to use

All you have to do is submit timesheets and a list if your expenses.

Employee Benefits

Even though you’re a contractor you will be seen as an employee, so you gain all of the benefits of an employee.

Testing the waters

If you are new to contracting, then umbrella companies offer you a low risk way of seeing if contracting is for you.