Freelance working is becoming more and more popular in the United Kingdom. The benefits of freelancing are manifold: the employment is flexible, the work is usually interesting, and you can (generally) work to your own timetable. However, there are disbenefits to freelancing: the lack of certainty as to future employment, the more powerful bargaining position of your employer, and the potentially complex and opaque legal process that determines your rights and duties as a freelance worker. This post will be the first of a series relating to the legal complexities of working as a freelancer and the rights and duties that freelancers have both under common law and statute. This post (rather unconventionally) starts the series by addressing issues that may arise at the end of the contract for services and gives certain practical tips as to what freelance workers can and should look for.

Issues at the end of a freelance contract

A freelance contract can end (being flippant for a second) – amicably or acrimoniously. If the parting of ways is amicable then there is generally not a problem – both parties have fulfilled their rights and obligations and the business relationship has ended well. However, if the contractual relationship ends badly then there may be problems ahead. Generally, there are a number of issues that can cause or arise from the end of the contractual relationship:

  • A dispute over the quality of the work produced by the freelance worker
  • A failure by either party to meet certain deadlines relating to the work
  • The freelance worker wishing to end the relationship and move into other employment before the contract has been fulfilled
  • The employer’s failure to pay the freelancer either part or the whole of the sum due

Issues relating to disputes over the quality of the work will be addressed below and the other 3 issues will be tackled in future posts.

A dispute over the quality of the work

This is the bête noir of the freelancer and can occur in one of two situations. Firstly, the freelancer may not have actually have done the work to the quality expected, through the fault of the freelancer. Secondly, the freelancer may not have completed the work to the quality expected because of a misunderstanding of what was expected to be produced. Thirdly, the freelancer may have completed the work to a satisfactory standard (objectively) but his employer may try and play “hard ball” by stating (falsely) that the work was not up to scratch.

If there is no express terms in the contract relating to the standard of work expected (which is assumed in this case) then the standard of services that are provided must be “reasonable” in the circumstances. This is a matter of fact in the particular instance and the standard expected varies according to the level of expertise and knowledge of the party providing the services.

Practical tips

Practical tip 1: make sure that the standard of work expected is in writing

Practical tip 2: try and get the important terms of the contract down in writing

Practical tip 3: make sure that you put your best efforts into the work (obviously)

Practical tip 4: don’t misrepresent your level of skill when you tender for the work. This could cause you big problems in the future.

Practical tip 5: be aware that there are implied terms that relate to the supply of services under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982

Redmans are London employment lawyers with their solicitors based in Richmond, London. They offer employment law advice and have particular expertise in  employment contract advice and as unfair dismissal solicitors

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Redmans Solicitors are a law firm based in Richmond, London. They are specialist employment lawyers and represent both employers and employees in the Employment Tribunal

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