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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Its a slightly complex issue regarding a former employer. To

Resolved Question:

It's a slightly complex issue regarding a former employer.

To cut it short here are the basic facts:
- I originally signed a 12 month time based contract (25hrs/40 weeks, 40hrs/8 weeks)
- This was for a fixed salary (there were no specific work objectives)
- Throughout the course of the time, I completed plenty of work within the time
- Towards the end of the contract, I was working on a project with deliverables which I wasn't able to deliver before the end of the salaried contract
- I continued to do this work after the contract time period at no extra charge because I felt obliged and agreed to via various e-mails
- I can no longer complete the project due to a change in circumstances and my employer is threatening to regain compensation from me because of it
- I do not feel as though I am liable to complete any specific tasks and was merely completing the project as a gesture of good will
- Outside of this, I owe the company £3,000 for other reasons which are unrelated and I do not dispute this
- I do dispute that I owe them work and/or compensation
- We have been exchanging e-mails but I've decided to no longer respond before seeking legal advice
- There are various e-mails to suggest I agreed to completion of work and so forth, this was pretty stupid of me but none of them mentioned any costs
- I currently study full time at university

My question is therefore: should I accept that I owe them some more money for the work incomplete because I agreed to it via e-mails even though it contradicts the original contract, or should I seek legal representation and dispute it formally?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: 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.

Ben Jones :

What compensation are they seeking and what specifically for?

Ben Jones :

I see you did not manage to finish the extra work but what losses have they suffered as a result?

Customer:

Hi Ben. They are seeking an amount they will calculate for the incomplete work, which is around 1/6th of the total project. They will have to pay someone else to complete the work, I imagine it will be a full time salaried employee so it's difficult to say what losses they will incur.

Customer:

Would it be helpful if I copied in the email exchange from the past couple of days? It essentially summarises both sides.

Ben Jones :

Were you working on a self employed basis?

Customer:

No, I had a signed contract for a part time salary of £8,700 for the 12 month period, working 25 hours per week for 40 weeks and 40 hours per week for 8 weeks. Here is the original contract: https://www.dropbox.com/sc/33hg7gihw12ep0z/-_HnVf3BqJ

Customer:

Here are the emails exchanged:

Customer:

  1. My original message after receiving a text message saying "Is this work going to be completed? If not we will have to re-allocate it and calculate how much more you owe us."

    Shen,

    Following your recent message regarding the ongoing work, I am afraid I will no longer be able to complete this course as requested. As discussed previously, the reason I didn't wish to continue working this semester was due to an excessive workload at university, totalling many more hours per week than a standard full time job, consequently I am unable to complete any more work for FunTech.

    I am afraid that I must disagree with the suggestion that I owe FunTech further money because the Online Coder course is incomplete. It is my position that my contract was time-based rather than one of specific deliverables to the company, and that I fulfilled the time requirement. I have attached a copy of my contract for reference. I am sorry if you are dissatisfied with my work during my time at FunTech, however I do not accept that I am liable either to complete the Online Coder course or to pay FunTech money. My earlier suggestion that I might complete this course was a gesture of goodwill and unfortunately due to a change in my personal circumstances I am no longer in a position to extend this gesture.

    I fully accept that I owe FunTech £3,000.00, both for the original agreed loan and also for all payments made after September 1st 2013, and intend to repay this as previously agreed.

    I would have liked to have taken some time to seek advice regarding this issue before responding, but I felt it would have been more appropriate to respond sooner to give you more time to re-allocate the work. I can provide all remaining lesson plans and incomplete lessons if that would be helpful.

    Once again, I am sorry we have ended up in this situation, I hope we are able to resolve it as swiftly and agreeably as possible.

    Kind regards,

    XXXXX XXXXX.


Customer:

2. Her response to that:


Without Prejudice


 


Steve,


 


I have taken advice and I am sorry to say that I will be pursuing this further, as I do feel that it was fully agreed with various emails and a general understanding that you would complete the Online Coder as part of the contract for last year. I have several emails – just a selection of which I will forward to you stating that you will complete the curricula etc. One further point, I agreed to extended PAID holiday to China or for a weeklong placement – I have several emails stating that you have not been able to keep up with your work due to university workload, this demonstrates that you have not given FunTech the required hours. I am afraid this is the case for this year to and our email exchanges prove that you continued to express that you would complete the work that you had understood would be required as last terms contract. The advice I have been given is that we have a strong case for compensation as this has impacted our business and can show the trail.


 


It is such a shame that we are now having to change the way we work and become less flexible and work on payment by results.


 


I am still willing to accept that you complete the Online Coder to a good standard and return our £3k after which we go our separate ways


 


I look forward to your response.


 


Sheineez

Customer:

Sorry for the huge influx of information, I hope it isn't too overwhelming in one go.

Ben Jones :

No problem, I just need a bit of time to go through it

Customer:

Thank you

Ben Jones :

So this course then - what was the actual understanding that you would perform it? I presume it was not in the original contract rather something that was allegedly agreed on the side?

Customer:

Yes, it was not in the original contract, but it was agreed via e-mails throughout the year what work would be completed to a time schedule, unfortunately deadlines overran and so on and there was an overhang of work at the end of the contracted period.

Ben Jones :

ok so the important part is did you actually agree that you could complete this as part of the original contract and included in the original pay?

Customer:

It's hard to say really, I did not agree to anything specific when I signed the contract, I did agree that I would complete the work within the contracted year during the year when I was given a proposed schedule and so on. Pay was never really mentioned throughout the year, although retrospectively I was sent an e-mail when deciding on work to continue into this year (which was cancelled) which stated something along the lines of "Complete [this course] by this date - already paid for" which I suspect I might have implied acceptance of in e-mails.

Customer:

I essentially want to know therefore; should I accept that I am at fault and negotiate compensating them, or should I seek legal representation and retain my position that I do not think there were any exact specifications in the original salary contract?

Ben Jones :

ok let me get my response ready please

Customer:

Thank you

Ben Jones :

by the way when you left did you give the specified notice in the contract?

Customer:

I did not leave early, I completed the contract to the end after which it was no longer in effect. I was in negotiations of a new contract but never signed any.

Ben Jones :

This is not an easy issue as I presume you have already accepted. The key really is what was agreed and under what conditions as this is going to be a contractual matter.


The correspondence between you and the employer will be crucial – this is what will reveal whether you had agreed to do this work or not. But at the same time, if you were an employee, then regardless of what you had agreed to do, you have the right to leave the employment and not be bound by any further contractual duties because once you legally terminate your employment you are released from all duties under the contract, or any ancillary agreements, with the exception of any post-termination restrictions.


 


So even if you had agreed to complete a specific course whilst employed by them, if the contract had come to an end, whether by early termination through you or the employer, or just because it was a fixed-term contract that had reached its end date, once the contract has terminated you are released from its terms and obligations under it. The case would be different if you were actually self employed because they you would have a contract for service, rather than a contract of service, and if you failed to meet the conditions of your contractual agreement with them, they could hold you to be in breach of contract and pursue you for the losses incurred.


 


This further complicates matters because there is a possibility you could be actually self employed rather than an employee, in which case failure to undertake the promises you made could place you in breach of contract.


 


No easy way to determine if you were an employee or not, although these are the usual tests applied:


 


www.hmrc.gov.uk/employment-status/index.htm#1


 


It should give you an idea of what your status may be and on your rights. So to clarify, if you were an employee, your rights will be better and can argue that the termination of the contract means you are not responsible for any work after that date, even if you had agreed to do it before – it should have been dealt with by the employer whilst you were employed by them, such as through a disciplinary or capability procedure. If you were self employed then it would be worse for you, because if it can be shown that you had agreed to undertake the work but failed to do so, you could be acting in breach of contract and they could potentially pursue you for losses incurred as a result.

Customer:

Thank you for the answer. Based on the tests on the link I would definitely consider it likely that I was an employee and am no longer. I will probably get a high street firm to represent me and undertake any further correspondence with them just to be on the safe side, but I appreciate the help given here today.

Ben Jones :

the matter is now in their hands - until they actually make a formal claim, there is little they can do. Return the other money owed and tell them as far as you are concerned this is the end of the matter. If they want to take it further they can, you can then consider whether to get someone to represent you

Customer:

Ah OK yes that makes more sense, thank you.

Ben Jones :

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Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX!

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