Freelancers' Questions: Can they change my service agreement end-date?

Freelancer’s Question: In December 2017, I received an email terminating my Service Agreement. It said the termination date was 19 calendar days from the email date, but my SA has 14 calendar days’ notice.

I received an email 7 calendar days later, saying that in calculating the termination date, my employer made a mistake with my end-date as they thought it was working days, so altered my termination date to 14 calendar days from when they issued email notice of termination.

Are they able to revise a termination date after issuing notice, even though they had stated a definitive date on the notification email? I would have thought the date issued on the notification would precede the duration stated in the SA. Please help!

Expert’s Answer: This is an incredibly difficult situation because generally we’d advise that you should honour the mistaken 19-calendar-day email to not cause more stress and upset than already being endured. It is though unfair, because you then have only got 7 days left rather than the 12 that you were under the impression you had, to find work. As a gesture of good will, you should honour the remaining 12 days to give you more time to find work.

However, legally in order to alter an expressed term in a contract, an ‘employee’ must be given a month’s notice in writing. Any variation must be made clear that it is a variation in the terms of the contract. Although this is not a traditional oral statement made (that would not constitute an amendment to the contract) the email has no contractual significance either.

Additional advice can be found on and in particular, the section which refers to termination periods. In the section for statutory notice period, it states: “There are two types of notice period: statutory and contractual. Statutory notice is the minimum legal notice that can be given. Employers should give the employee:

  • one week's notice if the employee has been employed by the employer continuously for one month or more, but for less than two years
  • two weeks' notice if the employee has been employed by the employer continuously for two years, and one additional week's notice for each further complete year of continuous employment, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. For example, if an employee has worked for 5 years then they are entitled to 5 weeks' notice.”

Finally, and more particularly, no such intention to vary from the original contractual terms was made clear from within your question, so this means that they can revert back to the expressed terms set out in the service agreement. Regrettably, this means that the original 14-day termination of service will apply, albeit probably unfairly in your view.

The expert was Mark Reed of Lawdit Solicitors , a legal advisory to freelance professionals in the creative industries.


10th January 2018

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