Broadly speaking freelancers and contractors have no legal rights to reinstatement if a client terminates or chooses not to renew the contract.
There is a possibility you could be eligible for a paid notice period from the client if they end the contract earlier than the stated end date, or a sum of money could be owed if they terminate early as a form of compensation (this is often referred to as a ‘kill fee’). In this blog post we will go through the key areas of contracts and your rights;
- Contracts and agreements
- Main elements of a contract
- Notice periods
- Breach of contract
Contracts and Agreements
A contract is an agreement with two or more parties, this type of agreement can be written (paper or electronic – email), oral, implied or a combination of these. It also becomes binding if you have commenced work on the project or assignment, even if you haven’t signed, as the action of commencing the work is deemed symbolic of accepting the terms of the contract.
We recommend you arrange a written contract prior to commencing work though. This way you can ensure expectations and terms are laid out and agreed to prior to starting work. This will avoid confusion or risk of a dispute later on down the line, as both parties will know what is expected of one another upfront. It is harder to enforce the rights contained in the agreement if there was none agreed – generally harder to refer back to, without any form of written record of the terms and conditions of the contract.
Core Elements of Contracts For Services (Self-Employed)
You can expect to find the following key clauses in contracts:
- The intention to enter into a legally binding agreement
- An offer of work and its acknowledgement of this being said agreement
- Consideration – e.g. you the worker will carry out work / provide a service in return for payment
In a lot of instances there are supporting documents that precede , they are;
- The proposal – the client’s requirements (similar to a project brief) and the action you will take to deliver this work
- The schedule – an agreed start and end date, with any additional detail on project updates throughout the contract
- Terms and conditions – a set of conditions to which you normally operate, outlined prior to engaging someone’s services, this may include: cancellation policy, copyright and ownership issues.
Generally speaking when it comes to notice periods for freelancer/contractors there is no legal minimum notice periods you or a client needs to provide to one another to terminate the contract before its agreed or natural end.
If you or the client wishes to include notice periods, this must be written into the terms of the contract between you and the client. You and the client must set out clear terms on how early termination notice is handled for either party.
Common clauses allowing a client to terminate are: misconduct if you’re unable to finish the work, breach of any of the terms of the contract, unhappy with the quality of work carried out, failure to meet deadlines or gross misconduct which covers; theft, physical violence, gross negligence or serious insubordination.
Breach of Contract
If it is terminated in a way that doesn’t fit the terms of the contract, your client could be in breach and you could be entitled to sue for damages. This is a complicated area of employment law which we would recommend you seek legal counsel from a solicitor, to better understand whether you have grounds for a claim. It also works both ways, you could be in breach of contract if you don’t fulfil the terms of the contract.
This article is designed to provoke thought and to consider the terms of a contract before entering into one with a prospective client.
Please note this is advice given by our advisors as guidance, it should not be taken as an authoritative or fully accurate interpretation of the law.