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Ben Jones
Ben Jones, UK Lawyer
Category: Law
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Experience:  Qualified Solicitor
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I'm self-employed and have fallen out with my "employer". He

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I'm self-employed and have fallen out with my "employer". He won't pay my last invoice, which is now over a month overdue, and now is threatening to "send me an invoice" for over £62k to cover costs incurred by mistakes I've made in the past. I've worked for him for about 12 years, and we've never had a written contract that states that I'm liable for any mistakes/costs, and our verbal agreement is that I invoice him and he pays my invoice. In the past all invoices have been paid on the day of issuing. I've just sent an email telling him that he has no grounds to ask for the £62k, and have said that if not paid in 14 days, I will go to small claims for the outstanding invoice (£800). Help! Can you advise me of my rights, please? Acas can't help because I'm not an employee.
JA: Have you discussed this wage-and-hour issue with a manager or HR? Or with a lawyer?
Customer: The company has no HR, but an independent HR consultant has told me that he can't withhold payment and can't charge me the £62k as there is no contract allowing him to do so. I spoke to a lawyer about the outstanding invoice but the amount was too small for them to get involved with. I haven't been back to them now that the issue could be £62k, because I don't know whether he's just trying to frighten me off and get away without paying me my final invoice.
JA: What is your employment status? Are you an employee, freelancer, consultant or contractor? Do you belong to a union?
Customer: I'm a freelancer, and I don't belong to a union.
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: This "employer" is quite vindictive, and has a history of threatening and bullying people. One former freelancer went to the police about him, but didn't ask them to pursue it, just keep in on file.

Hello, I’m Ben, a UK lawyer and will be dealing with your case today. Firstly, I need to ask some initial questions to determine the legal position.

Can I just check, are you still providing work for him?

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
No. He has "dispensed with my services"
Customer: replied 13 days ago.
I've started a £5 7 day trial. I don't now want to be bombarded with requests for £44. If you genuinely offer legal advice, then carry on.

 

Don’t worry about the pop-up mentioning a phone call – this is an automatic offer made by the system, giving you the opportunity to pay extra to discuss things over the phone. However, it is entirely optional and if you just ignore it and close it down you will not be charged extra and we will just continue in writing at no extra cost.

In the meantime, I will get back to you with my answer as soon as I can, which will be at some point today. The system will notify you when this happens. Please do not reply in the meantime as this may unnecessarily delay my response. Many thanks.

Ok so if a party wishes to pursue another for a debt arising out of a dispute between them, they can do so by making a claim in the civil courts. As legal action should ideally be used as a last resort, there are certain steps that should be taken initially to try and resolve this matter informally and without having to involve lawyers or the courts. These can be summarised below and it is recommended the following procedure is followed to try and progress this matter further:

 

1. Reminder letter – if no informal reminders have been sent yet, one should be sent first to allow the other party to voluntarily settle this matter.

 

2. Letter before action – if informal reminders have been sent but have been ignored, the other party must be sent a formal ‘letter before action’ asking them to resolve this amicably within a specified period of time, usually 7 to 14 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 pursue them for the debt in question. 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 www.moneyclaim.gov.uk. Once the claim form is completed a copy will be sent to the other side and they will have a limited time to defend it. Once they are aware that legal proceedings have commenced it may also force them to reconsider their position and perhaps prompt them to contact you to try and resolve this.

 

4. As an alternative to legal action a debtor can be issued with a formal statutory demand. This is a legal request which asks the debtor to pay the outstanding debt within 21 days and failure to do so would allow the creditor to bankrupt the debtor (if they are an individual) or wind up the company (if they are a business). The minimum amounts owed to be able to issue a statutory demand are £750 if the debtor is a company or £5,000 if they are an individual. For the relevant forms to serve a statutory demand see here: https://www.gov.uk/statutory-demands/forms-to-issue-a-statutory-demand

 

As a final tip, it is always advisable to keep copies of any correspondence sent and received as the courts would like to refer to it if it ever gets that far.

 

Does this answer your query?

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
What I'm reading sounds like you're on his side! The man is a bully, has not paid my piddling final invoice and is now trying to "invoice" me for £62k! What I need to know is whether this man can send me a bogus invoice, without a prior agreement that I'm liable for any losses incurred, so that I can tell him "no", and carry on with a small claim for my outstanding invoice!

On his side? I don’t take sides, I just provide advice on your legal position, simple as that. Also not sure how this is on his side, I have given you the steps you need to follow to recover the money you are owed?

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Being owed the£800 is only part of the story, and it's the £62k he wants from me that is worrying me!

He can ask you for anything he wants, that does not mean you are liable in any way. That is just his opinion and whilst there is nothing stopping him from trying to pursue you for it, he still has to show that this is a genuine request where you are legally liable for it. But just because he is saying you owe that does not mean he has any merits to pursue you for it and it should not put you off from pursuing him for what he owes you

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Can you point me in the direction of a resource where it says that he's not allowed to "invoice" me for losses if we don't have an agreement that I am liable, please?

you won’t get a specific answer like that somewhere written in black and white, that’s not how law works in England unfortunately. This is down to common law, established principles over decades of cases and decisions which are known to lawyers and which you may only find hidden in cases if you pay for formal legal research that would take hours

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
Does the law apply the same to self-employed people as to employees? Employers aren't allowed to deduct money unless it's part of their contract. Ours is a verbal contract of 12 years, and I invoice him and he pays for the hours I've worked.

It’s not the same laws, no, but instead of it being something contrary to legislation, it would be a breach of contract instead

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
That's what I thought. He's just replied replied to my statement that he has no grounds to charge me this money, and asking him to pay my invoice, or I'll go to small claims (it's over a month overdue now). He referred me back to the email he sent on Friday, saying he's going to take me to court if I don't pay the invoice he hasn't even sent me yet!

There is nothing stopping him from going to court if he really wanted to do so but that does not mean he has a claim. In the end you have to decide whether you want to just ignore these empty threats and pursue they money you are still owed, which you can of course do yourself too. Does this clarify things a bit more for you?

Customer: replied 13 days ago.
That seems to be the consensus of opinions so far. I've issued my 14 day notice, so I'll see what happens now. Thanks

No worries, all the best for now

Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Hi. My former boss has been quiet in the last couple of days, but today I received this:
"I have just had a long email from my solicitor

I explained even asking advising you that you needed to have public liability and he said if you didn’t it was a mistake on your part

He advised you are liable and to take legal action against you personally and has told us the steps to take which we will . I advised him that we had contacted you but you had ignored the fact we had over you had offered you the opportunity to discuss this but you had refused

This doesn’t go well in your favour in court

We will pursue this vigorously and the so called advice you said you received from ACOS represents employed people and are not professional solicitors or lawyers in litigation "

His previous email from Tuesday was thus "You don’t realise the seriousness

You owe us money for your negligence and we have given you the opportunity to discuss this but have refused

We will pursue a claim for damages and costs

Your total lack of care shown to the mistakes you have made is disgusting and just to ignore the fact and just think you can walk away from this will not happen

If someone caused damaged to you or your property you would claim off that person or company and our solicitor whatever ACAS said you are liable

Our solicitor has adviced we can make a claim for personal bankruptcy against you which we will inform this is what we want to do "

I feel threatened, intimidated and bullied. I don't think he's allowed to do this, particularly as he hasn't even sent me the alleged invoice for £62.5k. Any advice? Can I have him arrested for threatening behaviour? I have given him the 14 days notice for small claims to get my £800 invoice paid, and he said he will counter-claim. How does that work?
This is all making me ill!
Rosalie
Customer: replied 9 days ago.
Can you reply to questions above, please?

This is not a criminal matter and the police won’t be interested in this. You may feel threatened but all they are doing is pursuing their opinions on this matter further, just as you can do the same with yours. This is a normal part of litigation, no one said it is nice, but it is just how it is I’m afraid.

 

If he is saying he will counter-claim, it means that once you make your claim, he will just issue his claim and add it on to the same proceedings as yours, so the court will then hear both of them together and decide if either has any merits.

 

I cannot tell you how to get this person off your back – if someone is intent on doing something, they will, regardless of what they are told. So no matter what you do or say, if he has decided he will pursue you, then that is his prerogative and he has the right to have his time in court over it.

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