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Freelancers and contractors will generally have no legal right to reinstatement if their Client terminates or chooses not to renew their contract.
However, you may be due a paid notice period from your client if they end the contract early, or a sum of money may be owed to you on early termination as compensation (often referred to in freelancing circles as a kill fee).
Our Crunch advisors are only able to answer accountancy related questions. If you have an employment question please either leave a comment below or phone the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 110.
A contract is any agreement with two or more parties, that can be written (on paper or e-mail), oral, implied or a combination of these. A written contract will still be usually binding even if you haven’t signed it – if you are working on the project or assignment (as you have ‘accepted’ the terms of the agreement by beginning work).
Some freelancers and employers don’t like a written contract of any description but we would recommend it to ensure clarity of what has been agreed so there can be no confusion or disputes later. If you don’t have a written contract then it can be more complicated to enforce the rights contained within the agreement.
The main elements of a valid contract for services (that the self-employed have) are:
The contract is the main legal document but it can be supported by other documents that are referred to in it, these include:
Assuming you are a genuine freelancer / contractor (see our guide to determining your employment status here) and not a worker or employee, then there are no legal minimum notice periods you or your client need to provide each other to terminate the contract early, or at its natural end.
If you have notice rights then these should be written down in any agreement between yourself and the client (including third parties, e.g. Recruitment Agencies).
The contract should clearly set out the way in which termination will be handled and ideally should allow that either party can terminate the agreement immediately or with notice, whether a breach of contract has occurred or not.
With regard to notice periods, if you have a written agreement, then:
Some industries have, as common clauses, “cancellation rights” that allow the contractor to be paid a sum if the agreement is cancelled at short notice by the client before it starts (but these must be agreed between both parties to the contract).
As a genuine freelancer you have few employment rights and Unfair Dismissal is certainly not one of them. As a freelancer / contractor you have these rights:
If your contract has been ended in a way the agreement does not allow, then your client may be in breach of contract and you may be able to sue for damages. This area of the law is complicated and you would need to take advice from a qualified person to understand whether you can make a claim for the full value of the contract or alleged loss, or you need to mitigate your losses. There are also are different categories of damages whether you are making or defending a claim for breach of contract.
You, also, could be in breach of contract if you do not fulfil the terms of the contract.
If you are an Employer and need ongoing professional help with any staff/freelance issues then talk to Lesley at The HR Kiosk – a Human Resources Consultancy for small businesses – our fees are low to reflect the pressures on small businesses and you can hire us for as much time as you need.
Please note that the advice given on this website and by our Advisors is guidance only and cannot be taken as an authoritative or current interpretation of the law. It can also not be seen as specific advice for individual cases. Please also note that there are differences in legislation in Northern Ireland.
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