Can a client who stopped me defecting go back on our one-month contract?
Freelancer’s Question: I had a contract renewed by existing client ‘A’ at the end of October, partly because I was offered work by prospective client ‘B’ and ‘A’ wanted to keep me on and stop me defecting to ‘B’.
But I have now been told by ‘A’ that because they have other commitments, they can only guarantee one month as per my first placement agreement. Almost needless to say, I have already turned down the opportunity with ‘B’ to stay in my current contract and anyway, ‘B’ has taken on someone else.
Did I have options which I missed? Or, is there anything I can do if ‘A’ now tries to go back on the initial contract renewal agreement (one month). There is a big possibility they might. The agreement I have is on an emailed contract from HR and my line manager. Please help!
Expert’s Answer: You might find yourself in a difficult situation here, as generally between freelancers and clients, there is no minimum notice period that either you or your client have to give to one another.
As such your first port of call would be to check your contract for the basic principles. Is there offer, acceptance, consideration and a signature from both parties? This will give you an indication as to whether the renewal could be deemed a ‘valid’ contract to begin with.
You should then inspect the agreement to see whether a notice period might be included. If there is -- great. This should give you peace of mind as it is unlikely that your client can “go back” on the initial renewal agreement, without giving you prior notice first. Do ensure to read through this clause thoroughly though as notice periods can vary. The key things to look out for here are:
- How long is the notice period?
- Is it required to be in writing?
- Is there anything you or your client need to carry out beforehand?
Next, make sure you are clear on what your client will need to do should they decide to withdraw from the agreement early.
If there isn’t a notice period outlined in your contract, you might find yourself in hot water. In an ideal world, your client should give you reasonable notice. Yet what they consider ‘reasonable’ could, unfortunately, be very subjective. If this is the case, you may wish to ask your client to provide you with a heads-up (ideally in writing), before moving on.
You do make mention that your client guaranteed you one month of work, however. Is this stated in writing within your renewal agreement? If so, this may give an indication that your client has expressed the obligation to give you a certain amount of work which in essence, may be your saving grace.
If your client has the obligation to give you work for a certain length of time and bails out before the term is up, they are putting you in financial risk, which, dependent on the agreement terms, could give you the rights to be paid a certain sum in compensation.
So you know where you stand if all goes (further!) south, I strongly recommended you inspect the renewal agreement and more specifically, the notice period and obligation clauses within it.
I hope the above answers your question and gives you some guidance on things to look out for next time. I wish you the very best of luck! Should you need further advice, consider looking on Acas.org.uk or consult a specialist such as us.
The expert was Sena Tokel of Lawdit Solicitors.
26th September 2019