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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
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I am a Systems Developer living in London and recently just

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I am a Systems Developer living in London and recently just finished my first contract which has unfortunately left me in a predicament. There is more to this story but I have tried to keep it brief for now.
8 weeks ago, I was called on a Wednesday by one of my agents and told that my particular skills were needed in a huge university outside London and they needed me on-site the very next day for one week. This was very short notice however, I accepted the contract and start making plans for travel and accommodation immediately.
On arrival at the institution, I was given 2 problems that they needed remedied with their website and told that they wanted it done correctly and not in the way past contractors had patched problems in the past so I set about trying to understand their environment.
As I looked more into their environment, I started to discover lots more problems with programming code right across their entire site and reported to my line manager what I was finding. She asked me to carry on and to document my findings which I did.
By the following week, it was clear that I was not going to be able to meet the requirements due to the complexity of the site and the growing list of issues that I was encountering. At this point my line manager asked me if it would be possible for me to stay on for a further six weeks to give me more time to investigate and affect a fix. Before agreeing, I had to check with another company that I had a contract with, which was due to start later the same month if it was ok to move my starting date. Once I had got their approval, I told my current clients that all was ok so we carried on.
During week two, I was instructed to meet project sponsors from the businesses to talk about the work they needed done. This meeting was attended by me alone along with the head of the department and her secretary during which I was told specifically to ensure that the job was done correctly because there was a legacy of one thing being fix whist a problem was created somewhere else.
I set about to do this job in the right manner that would affect a permanent fix rather than a "patched up" one.
With two weeks still to go, with all of the research and investigation that I had done and on the day that I filled in my time sheet and submitted it for approval, my line manager calls me into a meeting room and tells me that my services will no longer be required, stating that they haven't seen anything from me even though I had kept her up to date both orally and by written reports as to what I was doing and my findings. Further more, I was not given the agreed time that I needed to finish the work that I had started.
Two weeks on from leaving, I still don't have any money paid to me and my time sheets have still not been signed for the time I was there. I have spent £3,500 in travel and hotels in the 6 weeks I had been there and currently don't have any money to get to my next contract.
What do I? I'm a contractor and don't have the same rights as an employee and feel completely shafted.
Ben Jones :

Hello, my name is ***** ***** it is my pleasure to assist you with your question today. Firstly can you tell me did you have a written contract with this university for you work.


Not with the university directly but with the agency that I contract through

Ben Jones :

ok thank you for all that information.please leave it with me. I am in a tribunal today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you this afternoon. There is no need to wait and you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you


No problem. I look forward to your reply. Good look in court.

Ben Jones :

Many thanks for your patience. Whilst you may not have the same rights as employees, for example in terms of protection against unfair dismissal, you would still have contractual rights because your relationship with the employer would have been governed by contract law, regardless of whether there was a written contract in place or not. The terms of any contract could be implied based on the discussions and agreement that were reached between you and for example a discussion that the services would be required for 6 weeks and agreements as to payments could all become binding contractual terms, even if they were not confirmed in writing.

Whenever a dispute arises over money owed by one party to another, the debtor can be pursued through the civil courts for recovery of the debt. As legal action should always be seen as a last resort, there are certain actions that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve the courts. It is recommended that the process follows these steps:

  1. Reminder letter – if no reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the debtor to voluntarily pay what is due.

  2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but these have been ignored, the debtor must be sent a formal letter asking them to repay the debt, or at least make arrangements for its repayment, within a specified period of time. A reasonable period to demand a response by would be 10 days. They should be advised that if they fail to do contact you in order to resolve this matter, formal legal proceedings will be commenced to recover the debt. This letter serves as a ‘final warning’ and gives the other side the opportunity to resolve this matter without the need for legal action.

  3. If they fail to pay or at least make contact to try and resolve this, formal legal proceedings can be initiated. A claim can be commenced online by going to Once the claim form is completed it will be sent to the debtor and they will have a limited time to defend it. If they are aware legal proceedings have commenced it could also prompt them to reconsider their position and perhaps force them to contact you to try and resolve this.

Whatever correspondence is sent, it is always advisable to keep copies and use recorded delivery so that there is proof of delivery and a paper trail. The court may need to refer to these if it gets that far.

Hope this clarifies your position? If you could please let me know that would be great, thank you


Thank you for your answer. So just to clarify, I should go after the person I have the contract with and not the university right? Also, do I need to look at the knock-on effect that this situation has on my next contract? Question being...I will have huge financial problems trying to get to my next contract, do I need to consider this in legal matters?

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