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Parasol systems outage leaves umbrella contractors facing late payments

Multi-day outage leaves umbrella company contractors working for payroll processing firm Parasol facing late salary payments, with the firm remaining tight-lipped over the cause of its technical difficulties

Thousands of contractors across the UK are experiencing delayed payments because of an ongoing systems outage at umbrella company Parasol.

The company, which is responsible for processing the payroll of at least 7,500 contractors across the country, confirmed in a social media post on Wednesday 12 January that it was in the midst of a systems outage that it was working to resolve.

The following day, the firm published another post stating that the outage remained ongoing, while confirming that contractor salary payments were being delayed as a result.

A company representative told Computer Weekly that Parasol was working “tirelessly” to bring the affected systems back online, but that it was unable to advise, at this time, how long that process would take.

Although the firm went public with news of the outage on 12 January, Computer Weekly understands the technical difficulties that have blighted it were first noticed by contractors on Monday 10 January, when they realised they had not been paid.

Mark Crisp, who works as a business transformation-focused project manager within the NHS, has been member of Parasol since August 2021. He first became aware there was a problem at the company on Tuesday 11 January, when he did not get paid on time.

“I tried to access the employee portal on the Parasol website and it was down,” he told Computer Weekly. “There was no outage message displayed, so I tried again throughout the day, but to no avail.

“The firm’s response so far has been mediocre, contradictory and with no level of transparency or honesty. No attempt was made to contact employees [Parasol’s contractors] by email – and it was well over 24 hours until Parasol added a ‘down for maintenance’ message on its employee portal page.”

Several other Parasol contractors, who spoke to Computer Weekly on condition of anonymity, said the firm’s phonelines and email systems also appeared to have been affected by the issues.

“I’ve tried emailing them multiple times because I haven’t been paid, on all of the addresses they give on their website, and all I get are bounce-backs and error messages in response,” said one contractor.

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Computer Weekly made multiple attempts to contact Parasol for additional comment on this story, but was also unable to make direct contact with the firm through email or over the phone.

Parasol CEO Doug Crawford emailed the firm’s contractors on Thursday 13 January with assurances that it was prioritising the processing of payments to ensure they received what they were owed in a timely manner.

The email, seen by Computer Weekly, does not go into any further detail about the nature or root cause of the technical difficulties the firm is facing.

Also, Parasol has not yet disclosed whether any customer data has been lost or compromised as a result of the outage.

“We are working around the clock to resolve our system issues so that we are fully operational as soon as possible,” added Crawford.

Computer Weekly understands that payments have started to be deposited in the accounts of some contractors, but recipients have been warned that the amounts they have received may be higher or lower than they were expecting.

The reasons for this have been set out in another email, seen by Computer Weekly, that the firm sent out to affected contractors this morning.

“At the current time, we are unable to process a normal payroll, which would – of course – involve treatment relating to your personal tax code,” the email said. “In this instance, we have made an advanced payment to you, which we expect will result in you receiving an amount which is broadly in line with your normal pay and deductions.

“Please don’t worry if your payment is higher or lower than you were expecting. Once our systems are fully operational and we are able to run a normal payroll, we will make an adjustment for any difference [in amounts].”  

The incident comes several months after a suspected ransomware attack against another umbrella company, Giant Group, also left its contractors facing payment delays.

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