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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Complaints / Disciplinary Procedure - Subconsultant

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I am a subconsultant who has worked on and off with a particular client for just under 5 years. Together we have successfully worked together on a number of large projects. I started a new contract with a team of people I have not previously worked with within my clients organisation a few months ago. Things had been fine but it was acknowledged from the outset that representatives at the large organisation we were completing work for were particularly difficult. 3 weeks ago I got asked by my client to attend a 'catch up' meeting immediately. This turned out not to be a catch up meeting but in fact a meeting to inform me that a telephone complaint had be laid against me by the large organisation we jointly work for stating I was difficult to contact and that an unrelated notice had been issued regarding issues with items of work we had jointly delivered. I was genuinely shocked by the complaint levelled against me but no specifics were discussed in terms of the details of the so called communications problems and the meeting focussed more on the written warning notice. No further actions or resolution was agreed and no document was written or issued regarding the communications complaint. I did however feel notably under observation and felt an increase in irritability towards me from the project manager. Two further weeks passed without further communications on the aforementioned issues, however, I was invited to a meeting to discuss the complaints notice at short notice. When I attended however, the client stated that another telephone complaint had been lodged about me being difficult to contact and that his organisation now had to take a strong view on this. I got the strong impression that this was the beginning of a conversation asking me to leave the project, although he wasn't this direct. I expressed that I was feeling 'scapegoated' and that at no time had my views been sought. He backed off from this point and the conversation changed to the role now needing to be a full time role rather than the agreed 3 days as this is what the client now needed to meet their communications and other needs. I could not commit to this as have other clients and they readily accepted this and are looking into finding a replacement. I also requested that I be able to submit written correspondence stating my position which was never sought, which I am in the current process of doing. To cut a long story short, I feel that this process has been unfair on me and that I should have been given written notice of all complaints and time to consider my position before meetings and actions were taken by my client.  I have been issued a contract, but unfortunately neither party has signed it yet as some wording needed finalising - how does this affect my position? I have 3 months of outstanding invoices pending payment. What are my chances of getting paid? Thanks

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Ben Jones replied 3 years ago.

Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is XXXXX XXXXX it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Do you actually wish to continue working there or not? What are you hoping to achieve in this situation?

Please note that due to the late hour I will be going offline now but will pick this up first thing in the morning, thanks


Hi Ben. First of all, it is important to note that I am a subconsultant there not an employee. I would like to continue the relationship with my client and keep joint working on projects. I feel this incident has more than likely had a negative effect on our relationship though. My two questions are 1) has the disciplinary process been fair (personally I don't think so), 2) should it have been documented in detail for all parties to have a clear and equal view of the issues and 3) as I did not sign a contract with my client, if things turn nasty, will I still have legal grounds t be paid for work completed (I have a backlog of 3 months worth of invoices). Chat tomorrow. Thanks.

Ben Jones :

Good morning. As a contractor rather than employee, you are not actually covered by the ‘usual’ disciplinary rules that are set out in employment law, mainly those provided under the ACAS Code of Conduct and also some case law. These all apply to employees only and if you are a contractor you do not have the same rights. Any disciplinary rules and procedures which you and your employer are bound by would be those detailed under your contract or any relevant policies in work. In the absence of such, there is no legally defined disciplinary procedure which the employer must follow and the way this has been handled would not be judged against established principles that apply to employees. It therefore means that the employer can decide what procedure to follow in terms of dealing with complaints and taking action against you and there would be a great deal of flexibility in that respect.


Similarly, there is no requirement on the employer to have documented all the issues to date or what has happened – this would be seen as good practice, rather than a strict legal requirement and again you are let down by the fact you are not an employee. There are defined rules for employees but you simply do not fall within that category and cannot rely on them in the circumstances.


Finally, the fact that you did not sign your contract should not affect your right to be paid for work already done. An implied contract would be in place in any event and the fact that you bothy continued working under certain terms, where you were given work and you accepted it, would still entitle you to be paid for that time – the employer won’t get away with not paying you.

Ben Jones :

Hope this clarifies your position?


Yes, thanks for your answer, you have covered everything I need. What a shame regarding the disciplinary procedure and process. Still, I have been negotiating today for clarity, fairness and the right to have my views documented. The contract did state that all issues were to be catalogued in writing by both parties in the event of dispute or similar (even if I did not sign it...) so will see how far I get on this point.

Ben Jones :

You and the employer would be bound by any written terms that are in place so you can certainly raise this in you negotiations if they have failed to adhere t anything that you have, even if it was not signed by you. A signature is not actually needed if your actions were such that both parties had appeared to have agreed to the terms, for example by working under tem anyway, even f they were not signed.

Ben Jones :

I hope this has answered your query. Please take a second to leave a positive rating, or if you need me to clarify anything before you go - please get back to me and I will assist further as best as I can. Thank you

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