Multi-day IT systems outage whacks umbrella biz Parasol Group amid fears of a cyber attack

Contractors say they haven't been paid, and are in the dark too


Contractors employed via umbrella company Parasol Group are increasingly nervous about a multi-day outage of some IT systems used to process payroll, with several suspecting a security attack as the root cause.

Greet Borsens, the chief sales officer at Parasol Group, itself part of Optionis Group, wrote to its contractor customers on 12 January confirming "a systems outage in parts of our group" affecting the MyParasol portal.

"As you may be aware, our contractors use MyParasol to submit their timesheets so this is also impacting our ability to process payroll. We are still able to provide telephone support and LiveChat to our contractors for any queries they may have and to manage questions in this regard," the message read. "We are proactively contacting employees who we know to be affected."

He added that staff were "working tirelessly to reinstate our systems" to be able to provide a normal service.

In a further update yesterday, Borsens said he'd created "alternative processes allowing to pay our employees" and provided "guidance on how to contact us."

"The payments that we are making are advances of their salary, rather than a full calculation of their pay, given that we don't have access to all employment data yet. We will ensure that our employees are clear on this.

"We are currently also unable to send invoices to our agencies. If you were expecting an invoice from us earlier this week, ahead of sending us funds and your remittance, we are asking for your help. In order to ensure that we continue to pay our employees, could you send us a remittance with the following information: name of workers, period and time worked, and amount per worker."

In the email, Borsens said Parasol would be grateful if an agency could pay the sums using the above information, and "we will subsequently raise the invoice as soon as possible."

A few months ago in September, Giant Group, the umbrella firm with thousands of contractors on its books, confirmed it was targeted by a "sophisticated" cyberattack that knocked over its IT systems. Several sources close to Parasol voiced concern that the same thing could have happened here, although there is currently no evidence to back up this suspicion.

"After the cyberattack on Giant a few months ago, just wondering if this is another cyberattack, or ransomware attack?" one said to The Reg. "No news has been forthcoming about the nature of the outage," said one contractor that used the umbrella biz, which have proliferated since the IR35 tax reforms were introduced in April last year.

On the offpayroll.org.uk site, an anonymous poster asked: "If it is a cyber attack wouldn't it be good to let us know so we can take the necessary measure to protect our personal information?"

Another said they'd been told by Parasol that contractors are unlikely to be paid until the affected systems are back up and running. "Least that clears up some of the issues. Still not happy."

Others weighed in, saying yesterday and today that they hadn't been paid either.

We've asked Borsens to comment via email and LinkedIn and called Parasol Group using its switchboard number and the one provided for Employee Support, although neither number worked. ®

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