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Contractor employment rights in the UK

The employment outlook for the working population of Britain has changed in recent years, and as a result many workers are now discovering the benefits of contracting.


Whether it’s more flexible work or higher pay for project-based tasks, there are a lot of reasons why people are making the shift to a contractor life. However, there are some drawbacks, and sadly not all employers are happy to treat their staff in the way they should. Here are some of the main employment rights for those working as contractors.


 On the face of it, being fired or suddenly removed from your position as a contractor may seem to be one of the main risks involved. But contrary to popular belief, you do have some rights against unfair dismissal as a contractor. For example, if a contract ends early you may be able to get some compensation because of all the extra resources you had to pour in to finding a new contract to replace the old one.

Pay cuts

In some circumstances, your employer (or, more accurately for contractors, client) may decide not to end your paid project but to simply cut the rate of pay you’re receiving instead. If they try to do that, you’ll be on solid ground: they can’t change the terms of a contract retrospectively while it’s still in force, so you’ll be able to pursue them via your rights under contract law.

Your salary

You are, of course, entitled to your fairly earned pay once the rate has been agreed and the work has been carried out. But taking all the steps you possibly can to make sure that this happens – and that it happens on time – is a wise move for any contractor to make. It makes good sense to sign up with an umbrella company to manage your contractor pay and give your client peace of mind.

Adverse working conditions

 In some circumstances, clients will fail to realise that the contractors on their team are not actually employees – and that they don’t have to behave in the same way. For example, some less than scrupulous clients will often request that their contractors do tasks that are associated with full-time team members that contractors are not actually required to do, such as attend certain meetings or contribute to team functions such as brainstorms.

Usually, all a contractor can do in this situation is inform their client that the arrangement doesn’t work like that. But in some circumstances, intense badgering from a client may constitute the creation of an unsafe workplace, in which case the contractor would have the right to make a complaint on the grounds of health and safety.

While there’s no reason to suspect that working as a contractor will go wrong, it’s wise to cover all bases and make sure you have the best possible chance of avoiding conflict with your client. For that reason, taking steps like signing up with an umbrella company and educating yourself on contract law could pay dividends in the long run.

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