As a former IT contractor Rob Crossland knows only too well the daily pressures facing flexible employees. Not happy to rely on anecdotal evidence, however, his company Parasol commissioned a survey of its contractors to ascertain what their immediate needs were, and then harnessed its nine years of experience to respond. The result is 'My Parasol', their new and improved online portal.
Saves time and money
Unequivocally, the main take-out of the survey is the demand from freelancers for a system that would save them time. This is supported by the general consensus that umbrella companies can be slow to process data and that the quality of service does not always meet expectations.
In addition, a real concern for contractors is around making mistakes in claiming expenses. This can have serious legal ramifications so an umbrella company has to offer a system that is error-proof and keep contractors on the right side of the law. The new portal offers an intelligent interface for entering timesheet and expense data to reduce errors and provide step-by-step guidance. The enhanced pay tracker and new dashboard features will enable Parasol's contractors to see exactly how much they are going to get paid and monitor every stage of their invoicing.
Peace of mind
This peace of mind is further supported by the portal's ability to offer hourly updates to contractors wanting to review any information about their account and the knowledge that they will now be able to arrange same day payments by CHAPS themselves instead of having to email Parasol. They will also have full control over some additional transactions on 'My Parasol' such as being able to apply their own locks to their account.
In these uncertain economic times it stands to reason that more people will be investigating the option of flexible working. To facilitate those new to this industry and offer even more support to those who might prefer accessing information in a different format, 'My Parasol' includes an interactive demonstration to take users through each function of the portal and quick links help users navigate more quickly to find the information they need.
John Whittaker, Parasol contractor said: "The new website is great, it's much easier to navigate and to enter repeat information, such as daily expense claims. It's also feels a lot more robust, more helpful and it is clearer what is happening."
A sustainable future
Another benefit of an online system is that it removes the need to submit or store paper records. This is a win-win situation, which reduces the risk of paper work being lost, offers a better service for the contractor and less paper means it is a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Parasol is also responding to the need for remote access and is looking into developing a version of the portal that can be downloaded to an iPhone or Blackberry, which will give contractors even greater flexibility on the move.
Rob Crossland commented: "As a former IT contractor myself, I know only too well the daily pressures facing our clients. We want to make life easy and enjoyable for our contractors, so we put lots of thought into designing a user-friendly and intuitive portal. Updating timesheets and expenses couldn't be easier. Our contractors spend less time on admin and can now reclaim their weekends."
Click here to view Parasol's new online portal.