Contractor Doctor

Contractor Doctor

The Contractor Doctor answers readers questions.

From starting contracting, through to financial issues, legal issues and disputes, we can help you.

We have access to experts from all areas of the contracting industry who can help answer your queries.

Recently answered questions...

Q. Can I get part time flexible contracts? Answer...

Q. How much income should I save for holidays and sickness? Answer...

Q. Do I need to set up a limited company before seeking a contract? Answer...

Q. Can I bypass an agency that has already introduced me? Answer...

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^ TopFirst timers

Am I good enough for contracting?
Supply and demand drives the market for contractors and those with transferable in demand skills and experience will always be able to find contracts.

Am I too old for contracting?
A permanent employee considers contracting but is worried if ageism exists in the contract world.

How does contract work compare with permanent work?
Do contractors get stuck with the unattractive work?

Should I quit my job before applying for contracts?
A permanent employee asks whether they need to hand in their notice before applying for contract positions.

How can I avoid a gap when going from permie to contracting?
Advises a reader how to make a smooth transition from permie to contracting without a gap in working.

Can I get part time flexible contracts?
Contractor Doctor offers advice to a permanent employee who is considering part time contracting.

Can I legally go from permanent to contracting at the same company?
Answers the question from a permanent employee on whether they are legally allowed to immediately contract with the same company after leaving.

Can I take my first contract at the company i'm planned on leaving?
Should you accept your first contract at the company you are leaving permanent employment to go contracting?

Should I quit my permanent role before leaping the chasm to contracting?
Discusses the catch 22 of handing in your notice with no promise of a contract in the near future.

Can I contract whilst still being employed?
Considering an out of office hours contract whilst still being permanently employed.

Can I still qualify for benefits after a short-term contract?
James Doyle from Tarpon advises how unemployed contractors can take advantage of short term contracts whilst minimising the interruption of benefits.

Can I contract directly with a customer of my former employer?
Contractors seeking to contract direct with a former employer’s customers should check their contract and seek advice, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can I start a contract when on gardening leave?
Employees on gardening leave and considering contracting should check their employment contract first or they may risk breaching its terms.

^ TopContract search

Can I apply for different contracts with the same agent?
Should you target your CV differently for different roles advertised by the same agent?

Do agents require references before putting forward my cv?
Agents have a right to ask for references. But they probably will put you forward without them at first, and those who insist may not even have real jobs to offer you. You need to sort out the rubbish when dealing with agents

Can my agent find me a contract before asking about conduct regs?
Contractors not opting out of the conduct regulations before being introduced to a client can’t opt out later explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can I contract direct for my client if I have no agency contract?
Contractors may be able to contract direct with clients after introduction by a recruiter if there is no agency agreement, says Roger Sinclair.

Must I contract with an agency that first sent my CV to a client?
Contractors proposed to the same client by two different agencies may not be required to contract with the first agency, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Does signing a new contract after one goes cold put me in breach?
Contractors whose contract terms are changed by an agency are unlikely to be in breach if they accept another contract, says Egos’s Roger Sinclair.

^ TopFinancial set up

Do I need to set up a limited company before seeking a contract?
Don't be late and lose the contract. Make sure you set your company up or join an umbrella ready for your start date.

Does choice of umbrella significantly affect take home pay?
Does it make any significant difference which umbrella company you choose in terms of final take home pay after tax?

Can contractors run two businesses from one company?
Contractors have every right to run as many businesses as they choose from their limited companies. There are a few issues they should be aware of.

What's best - permanent for £3.5k or contract for £4k?
Someone is offered £3,500 per month as a permie, or £4,000 per month as a contractor. What's the best deal?

What's the difference between temping and contracting?
There is a clear difference between contractors, temps, and agency workers.

What is my tax situation if I contract for a US company?
Contractors may find themselves offered work by US-based companies. They can accept this without concern, and expect UK working conditions. But the culture gap is something to be aware of.

How should I handle contracting for short periods of a few days?
What's the best way to handle contracting when you work one day at one company, two days at another--and in general you work under verbal agreements for very short terms? A limited company is still the best bet.

Can I claim for pre-incorporation personal expenses?
When first starting out, contractors often find that the paperwork takes time to catch up. Barry Roback, of JSA Group, explains what personal expenses contractors can claim if starting work before incorporating their company.

Can Entrepreneur’s Relief help extract cash from my ltd company?
James Abbott of Abbott Moore explains that for most contractors ER won’t make it worth accumulating a large cash surplus in their limited company.

I’ve just married – can I share contracting income with my spouse?
David Colom of D J Colom highlights the pitfalls of sharing contracting income with a new spouse and suggests the best tax strategies to employ.

We’re divorcing – what happens to our contractor limited company?
David Colom of DJ Colom explains his experience of contractor options when divorce is on the cards for a husband and wife contracting team.

Is it worth starting a limited company for one contract?
Starting a limited company for a single contract can benefit contractors able to split dividends with a spouse, but for most will be uneconomical.

Can I sell personal assets to my limited company?
Contractors starting a new contracting career and incorporating a company can sell personal assets to their business, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott

Do I need an employment contract with my limited company?
The implications of employment contracts for limited company contractors are explained by Lawspeed’s Theresa Mimnagh and Abott Moore’s James Abbott.

How do I calculate student loan payments on a contracting income?
Contractors with student loan debts can calculate repayments due based on gross contracting income, explains James Abbott of Abbott Moore.

Can I run my contracting business through two different companies?
Contractors can trade through two different limited companies but there are tax, cost & commercial implications explains Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

How does the VAT Flat Rate Scheme work when invoicing EU clients?
Contractors operating the VAT Flat Rate Scheme won’t lose money when invoicing European Union (EU) clients, explains James Abbott of Abbott Moore.

How do I account for overseas subcontractors?
Contractors should pay overseas suppliers broadly the same as they would treat a UK-based supplier, maintaining a paper trail of the transaction.

My spouse has a short-term contract. Should it go via my ltd co?
Contractors should consider the implications before allowing their spouse to contract via their limited company, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Is lending money to my limited company a tax efficient investment?
Limited company contractors lending their company money are unlikely to be in a better tax position than if paying themselves salary and dividends.

Can I withdraw personal cash from my limited company bank account?
Contractors can use cash from their limited company bank account but must maintain a paper trail of expenditure, explains Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I employ my children via my company?
Limited company contractors can employ children over the age of 13, but there are marginal tax benefits & many pitfalls, says InTouch’s Clare Rickman.

Will my current life insurance cover me when I go contracting?
Contractors with existing life insurance will find the policies are still valid, but they may not provide sufficient cover.

Should I use ER or a pension to extract cash from my Ltd company?
Contractors trying to tax-efficiently extract and invest limited company cash can choose ER or a pension, but might be best advised to wait and see.

^ TopIR35

No substitution but can hire subcontractor: what’s my IR35 status?
Contractors with client restrictions on rights of substitution may find hiring a subcontractor achieves the same goals.

Can contractors using umbrella companies be caught by IR35?
Does working for an umbrella company enable you to avoid it?

Can I get financial protection against an IR35 investigation?
How can a contractor protect themselves financially against an investigation.

Why can't I use the company canteen?
Contractors can't expect to use the company canteen or to enjoy other employee rights because they risk falling inside.

Does length or number of contracts affect IR35 status?
Does how long you work at a place, or the fact that you have several different contracts affect your status?

Does contracting on stand-by put me inside IR35?
Accepting a retainer payment for stand-by status has nothing to do with employment status.

Does IR35 apply for very short contracts?
It applies to all contracts irrespective of the time period that they run.

Does charging expenses to your client affect your IR35 position?
Legitmate business expenses can be recharged to clients without affecting status as long as some simple guidelines are followed.

If the client requests me personally, am I caught by IR35?
Many contractors who are the leaders in their field find themselves working for clients who will accept no substitutes. But this does not mean that the contractor is caught.

Half my contract is onsite and half at home – am I caught by IR35?
Significant variations during a contractor’s contract can lead to different treatment.

If I sign a confidentiality agreement in my name am I inside IR35?
Contractors asked to sign confidentiality agreements in their name, and not their limited company’s, are unlikely to be at risk.

I’ve been outside IR35 and now think I’m caught. What should I do?
Contractors experiencing a sudden change of circumstances mid-way through a contract may find this alters their status and hits their finances.

I won my contract by tendering – does this put me outside IR35?
Strengthen your ‘in-business’ status by winning contracts via tenders, pitches and proposals to clients.

If my client lets me substitute purely for IR35, would it count?
Using a substitute means you could enjoy 3 years of contracting, according to HMRC’s business entity tests.

Does hiring other contractors put me outside IR35?
Contractors hiring other contractors to help complete a contract may be genuinely substituting and so outside.

I have paid IR35 taxes for seven years. What are my options?
Contractors caught for many years can adopt strategies enabling them to regain control of their career and stop paying too much tax.

Contract says ‘in IR35’, working practices are out: what’s right?
Contractors with a 'caught' contract may have working practices that put them clearly outside, but the trick is to provide proof.

My client is offering employee-style perks – should I accept them?
Contractors should avoid including any elements in their contract that might suggest they are disguised employees, and may be affected.

^ TopHolidays

How do holidays work when contracting?
How do you take time off when contracting?

How much income should I save for holidays and sickness?
Contractors don’t receive sick pay or get paid for holidays, so need to plan their finances to take into account expected, and unexpected, time off.

Can contractors take holidays when they want to?
This client has told the contractor that they cannot take off any time for holidays over the summer at all. Can they legally do this? Where does the contractor stand?

Can I go contracting even though I might become unwell?
Under normal conditions, contractors don't get sick pay. But they can get insurance that will cover days lost to illness, assuming they aren't missing work due to a pre-existing condition.

Can I be forced to take time off for xmas?
Unless your contract specifies that you are expected to have periods of suspension, there is no reason why you should be obliged to take time off.

Can I claim maternity pay benefits from my umbrella company?
Contractors who meet the qualification criteria can claim a range of maternity benefits from their umbrella company, explains Derek Kelly of Parasol.

Should a self-employed contractor get holiday pay?
Contractors engage in a business-to-business relationship with their clients. So, they are not employees and do not get paid holiday pay.

New contract asks me to commit to limited time off – IR35 issues?
A seemingly innocuous phrase restricting time off in a client-supplied contract could put a contractor well inside.

Can my client refuse to allow already agreed time off?
Contractors don’t book holidays; they negotiate breaks in service provision or supply a substitute for time off that can’t be taken between contracts.

Can umbrella companies withhold holiday pay for days not taken?
Umbrella companies, like any employer, should pay holiday pay, but employees should also take holidays, says Parasol’s Juliet Byrne..

^ TopSickness

Can I claim ESA sick pay via my company when on sick leave?
Contractors who fall ill do have options available, despite the lack of protection, but only if they plan ahead, warns Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

^ TopTaxes

When is tax payable on declared dividends?
HMRC requests tax on dividends twice throughout the year, but the tax attracted depends on various factors, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Do I have to pay employers and employees NI when using an umbrella?
The amount of NI contributions you pay depends on your status and how you decide to structure your financial affairs.

How do I work for a us-based company from the uk?
If you have your own limited company, then working for a US-based company is no different from working for one over here.

How do umbrellas calculate contractors’ national insurance
When contracting inside, employer's National Insurance contributions are calculated on the gross income billed to the client.

Can I pay a salary & save tax if taking an overseas careers break?
Contractors on an overseas career break can continue to pay a salary and benefits from a corporation tax deduction, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

How can I account for overpaying my dividend?
Contractors who have overpaid a dividend can treat it as a personal loan, but must repay it within nine months, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Do I have to pay tax and NI on my minimum wage earnings?
Contractors who work through umbrella companies have to pay some tax and NI on minimum wage earnings, as Derek Kelly of Parasol explains.

Can I pay back an HMRC tax refund in instalments?
Contractors who get tax refunds should think before spending the cash as they may owe money to their company and HMRC, explains Phil Richards of BFCA.

How do I work out my NICs when I leave my job to be a contractor?
Many employees are choosing contracting as an alternative career choice and want to keep their NICs in order. Phil Richards of BFCA explains how.

My fee income has dropped – should I deregister for VAT?
Abbott Moore’s James Abbott explains that contractors should deregister for VAT only when their business has changed focus, or is closing.

How do I supply a tax clearance certificate?
Contractors may be asked for a tax clearance certificate to avoid paying foreign tax on their earnings or to confirm that their business is compliant.

Can I give children shares in my contracting company to save tax?
Contractors tempted to transfer company shares to their children to reduce their tax bills will still have to pay tax on any dividend income.

Should I keep cash in my company or pay off my mortgage?
Contractors should consider their options before deciding to pay-off debts or delay dividends as it may save tax, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Is lending money to my limited company a tax efficient investment?
Limited company contractors lending their company money are unlikely to be in a better tax position than if paying themselves salary and dividends.

I can’t pay my tax bill to HMRC – what are my options?
Contractors who have spent the money put by to pay their company’s tax liabilities may be facing liquidation, explains Mike Simister of Lines Henry.

Can I receive a tax-free redundancy payment from my ltd company?
Contractors can’t use redundancy or termination payments to take cash tax efficiently from their limited company, says James Abbott of Abbott Moore.

How can I stay under the VAT threshold when using subcontractors?
Contractors working on one-off major projects that require sub-contracting may be able to avoid registering for VAT, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I use a tax certificate to offset my tax bill in the UK?
Contractors working overseas can face tax complications, but acquiring a tax certificate can provide an easy and efficient resolution in most cases.

^ TopExpenses

What are Schedule E expenses?
Contractors can claim Schedule E expenses via their umbrella company or contracting limited company to reduce the amount of tax and NICs they pay.

Can expenses be claimed for entertainment?
Answers a question from a reader about the rules for claiming entertainment expenses.

Is it acceptable to ask for relocation expenses?
When the contract being offered involves working abroad where do you stand with regard to charging relocation expenses?

Does taking a break get around the 24 month contractor expenses rule?
Answers a contractor's question about the 24 month expenes rule and explains the rules in detail.

Can you clarify the 24 month expense rules?
A contractor requires some clarification on the 24 month expense rules. At what point does the rule kick in, and can the 24 month clock be reset with a new contract?

After 24 months at a client site, do travel expenses get repaid?
You do not have to repay travel expenses when you work more than 24 months at a client site.

Does contracting for different clients at the same location affect the 24 month rule?
Contractors can change clients at the same location and ‘reset’ their 24 month rule expenses status, but only under certain conditions.

Can I charge my client expenses after the 24-month rule kicks in?
Contractors can continue to charge their clients for expenses even after the 24-month rule takes effect, explains Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I claim training expenses for an open university course?
Contractors can claim for training under some circumstances, but many types of training and skills development are excluded by HMRC, explains accountancy expert David Colom.

Can I give myself a tax-free long service award?
Contracting and contractors have been around for a few decades now. Does this mean contractors may pay themselves tax-free awards for long service?

Can I claim Statutory Maternity Pay from a contractor ltd company?
Contractors can pay themselves Statutory Maternity Pay from their contracting limited company and reclaim costs from HMRC, says BFCA’s Phil Richards.

Can I still claim for childcare costs through my limited company?
Contractors can still claim childcare costs via their limited company despite changes introduced in the 2011 Budget, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I buy a tax deductible iPad or Android tablet?
Contractors can claim a tax deduction for the cost of an iPad or Android tablet if it is primarily for business, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Is it worth paying Benefit in Kind (BIK) tax for some benefits?
Contractors can calculate the benefit in kind (BIK) tax for company benefits before deciding how to pay for them, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I take three years out for a degree & fund it from my company?
Limited company contractors can fund themselves with company cash during a degree course, but must personally pay for the course, says James Abbott.

Do I have to take action about the new tax-free childcare scheme?
Contractors with children may benefit from the 2013 Budget’s tax-free childcare scheme but need take no action, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I claim expenses for building an office in my garden?
Contractors claiming the cost of building an office in their garden may save VAT & tax, but complications may arise, says Abbott Moore’s James Abbott.

Can I claim shared parental leave through my umbrella company?
Umbrella company contractors can claim shared parental leave from their service provider, if they are eligibe, says Parasol's Kerry Harvey.

^ TopExpenses - Food / Travel

Can I claim food expenses and without receipts?
A contractor enquiries if they can claim for unreciepted food expenses.

Can I claim for regular lunch and food expenses?
Contractors based at client’s offices can claim subsistence expenses for food and lunches if they keep receipts, explains Steve Crouch of Crunch.co.uk

Is my umbrella company using the correct car mileage calculations?
Rob Crossland of Parasol warns contractors against umbrellas that use expenses policies to maximise their VAT income at their contractors’ expense.

Can I hire a company car for a single contract?
Contractors hiring a company car for the duration of a single contract will encounter HMRC’s tough tax rules, explains Abbott Moore’ James Abbott.

I’m going to contract in the UK. Can I claim flights, rent & food?
Contractors coming from overseas to work in the UK are subject to the same business expenses rules as UK-based umbrella & limited company contractors.

Can I claim for packed lunches or do I have to eat out?
Contractors on business trips away from home can claim for subsistence costs, such as weekly shops for packed lunches, says James Abbott.

If I contract at a former employers can I claim for travel?
Should your former employer offer you a contract, you still have all the rights contractors are entitled to. But you have to be very careful about status.

Does the 24 month rule apply to two clients at the same location?
Contractors switching contracts between different clients at a similar location cannot reset the 24 month rule, explains James Abbott of Abbott Moore.

Can I claim lunch expenses when walking to work?
There are no HMRC rules that prevent a contractor from claiming subsistence expenses just because they walk to work.

^ TopAccomodation

Can I claim expenses for buying a second home closer to my client?
Many contractors spend time away from home in a rented flat to be closer to their clients. Rental costs can be claimed but when you buy a second property, it is more complicated.

I’ve bought a house to be near my clients: what costs can I claim?
Contractors who buy a second home to be closer to clients can claim a range of costs as expenses, explains David Colom of DJ Colom & Co.

Can I claim rent expenses for using a holiday home I own?
Contractors can only claim limited expenses for staying in a holiday home which they own during a contract, explains James Abbott of Abbott Moore.

Is renting a home near the contract site an allowable expense?
Contractors who rent a place to live near where they are working can deduct almost all expenses if the accomodation they are renting isn't their principal place of residence.

^ TopAgency Negotiation

What is an acceptable agency margin?
What is an acceptable margin, how it is calculated, and should you even negotiate it?

How can I renegotiate a smaller agency margin?
Getting a higher rate by reducing a very high agency margin.

Are agencies legally bound to reveal contract margins?
When negotiating rates, it is useful to know the margin the agency is charging. But do they have to tell you?

Are advertised contract rates a good guide to market rates?
Do the advertised market rates give a good indication of rates in the market?

Can I bypass an agency that has already introduced me?
The 3 main reasons why it's unlikely you will ever be able to cut out an agency and go direct to the client.

Contractor Doctor:My agent is refusing to amend my contract – what are my options?
Agencies are often reluctant to change standard contracts as they see this as an unnecessary cost. However, contractors do have options.

How can I convince my agent to cut their margin and pay me more?
The vast majority of agencies negotiate fair deals, but what can a contractor do if they suspect their agent is taking too high a margin?

Can I renegotiate a poor rate mid-way through the contract?
Contractors can ask for higher rates during a contract, but prospects of success depend on their negotiating position says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

When applying for contractor roles online what rate should I give?
Contractors applying for roles online can be asked to provide a rate before the application is accepted, but this is only the start of negotiations.

Should I opt out of the Conduct Regs or AWR after a contract win?
Contractors new to contracting can get confused between different sets of regulations, when they apply and whether there is an option of opting out.

Why are agencies requesting National Insurance (NI) numbers?
Contractors asked to provide personal information such as NI numbers must do so, as it is unlikely to affect their status.

^ TopDisputes with Clients/Agencies

Can my agency force me to add new clauses into my contract?
Contractors should be wary when asked to add new clauses to a contract, as there may be less risky alternatives, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Should I fake sick leave to avoid complications with my agency?
Contractors who fake sick leave to end a contract early may be in breach of contract. A negotiated termination is a more effective outcome.

My agency has stitched me up – what can I do?
Agents are out to get the best deal for themselves. So are contractors, who must take steps to make sure bad things don’t happen to good contractors.

Can my agent lock me into a low rate?
Restrictive convenants often figure in agency contracts. But the agent cannot use them as a bargaining tool.

How can I deal with staff who keep asking me for expert advice?
Sometimes clients expect you to train their staff as part of your contract. If you had never agreed to this then you don't have to - but you could turn it into an opportunity.

Can my client replace me with cheap labour from outside the EU?
Clients looking for cost savings can be tempted to terminate local contractors for cheap imports from outside the EU, but it often costs more.

I am being harassed by a client’s employee – what are my rights?
Contractors have no employment rights but, according to David Royden of Laytons Solicitors, the do have the right to a healthy and safe workplace.

My client was taken over – can the agency change my contract?
Mergers and acquisitions resulting in clients changing ownership are commonplace, potentially meaning early terminations or renegotiations.

Can the firm that bought my client refuse to approve timesheets?
Roger Sinclair of Egos highlights the potential risks contractors can face when they choose to continue working without a current contract.

If my client blocks a substitution can I claim breach of contract?
Contractors refused their right of substitution may find their client in breach, and termination could be one outcome, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can my client sue me if I get too ill to work?
Technically a contractor is in breach of contract if they can’t work because of illness, but in reality a client wants a replacement, not a lawsuit.

Client wants to sue, but owes me money – how can we meet half-way?
A contractor is threatened with legal action by a client who owes him money. Can both parties compromise & win or will they play hardball & both lose?

What can the agency do if I cancel my contract before starting it?
Contractors cancelling their contracts before they start may find themselves liable to pay their agencies compensation, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can I sue my agency if it gets fired by the client?
Contractors may have grounds to take legal action if their contract is terminated because the client fires the agency, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

I’m being bullied to join a teambuilding day, what’re my options?
Contractors face greater risk if forced to attend client teambuilding events and clients may be liable for bullying.

How do I handle hostility from my client’s permanent employees?
Contractors countering hostility from their client's employees can adopt a range of strategies to help defuse the situation.

Can I use a doctor’s sick note to defend against contract breach?
Contractors unable to fulfil a contract due to illness will find a sick note from a GP won’t defend a breach, but the contract may be ‘frustrated’.

Do I have rights if my contract’s terminated because I’m pregnant?
Limited company contractors terminated due to pregnancy can sue for discrimination, but there’s a tax sting in the tail.

^ TopProject and rate changes

Can I quit the contract if the role is different than agreed?
Contractors arriving at their new client’s site only to discover the role they had been sold by the agent is totally different can quit the contract.

Am I legally obliged to train the client's staff?
Contractors do not have to provide services over and above those agreed in the contract, and clients cannot expect contractors to do so.

Can agencies change the rate of pay mid-contract?
This agency is trying to change the rate due to a contractor on a contract that is already in force. They have no legal right to do this. Contractors shouldn't stand for it.

Can my client force a rate reduction during the contract?
This client is trying to change the contractors rate on a contract that is already in force. They have no legal right to do this, and contractors shouldn't stand for it.

Can my client force me to work fewer hours than my contract says?
Is the client in breach of contract by forcing a contractor to take time off? It depends on the contract’s small print, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Client and I disagree over my contract end date – who is right?
Contractual terms are disputed, but contractors who effectively manage their paperwork have no cause for concern, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can clients cancel confirmed shifts without notice & compensation?
Some contractors working on short term freelance contracts don’t have a signed contract in place, leaving them in a vulnerable position.

My client has asked me to move location – do I have to relocate?
Contractors faced with a client request to change location must review their contract to consider available options, advises Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Client wants to move me to a new project. I don’t want to. Help!
Contractors don’t have employment rights but are protected by contract law, so a client can’t change the contract without the contractor’s agreement.

My client asks me to work through lunch – should I charge?
Contractors aren’t usually paid for time they don’t work, like lunch hours, but ultimately it depends on what has been negotiated into the contract.

Can my client change my role mid-contract?
Contractors don’t have to agree to role changes imposed by a client mid-contract, as the implications of accepting may suggest control.

^ TopRestrictions / Bypassing agencies

Are restrictive contract clauses enforceable?
Are clauses restricting working directly with the client enforceable in a court of law?

Can a restrictive covenant be implied if not in the contract?
There is no reason why contractor contracts should automatically include restrictive covenants implied in the terms, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can I contract direct if the agent is uncooperative?
If an agent who has contracted with you in the past refuses to handle your contract renewal, go straight to the client.

Can an agency sue me because I went to the client direct?
Contractors can tread a fine line in their relationship with agencies and are not always in the right, as Roger Sinclair of Egos explains.

Are restrictive covenants enforceable on overseas contracts?
It is commonplace for UK contractors to have a restrictive covenant in their contract with an agency, but can this be enforced outside of the UK?

Can my agent withhold £10k based on 17-year-old restrictions?
Restrictive clauses appearing to stop contractors contracting direct may not apply if they pre-date the Conduct Regs, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can I bypass an agency offering unfair terms?
Contractors may be able to bypass an agency which is offering unfair contractual terms and refusing to negotiate, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can clients and contractors cut out an agency lying about margins?
Contractors trapped in contracts with steep margins by an agency that lied to the client may be able to find an exit, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Is my agency’s restrictive covenant valid after losing PSL status?
Contractors may have grounds for disregarding a restrictive covenant if a former agency makes threats to withhold payment, says Egos’s Roger Sinclair.

^ TopPayment problems

How can I deal with an overseas agency who won't pay?
Contractors who work overseas can get help from industry organisations. But legal protection is better.

How can I chase a large debt - over £50k?
An agency has failed to pay a contractor for three months and owes them £50K. It's not a small claim, under £5k. We explain the process for collecting the money.

Can the agency hold my payments for ransom?
Can the agency hold your payment in an effort to bargain with you? The short answer is: definitely and absolutely not. Also, restrictive covenants can never last for an indefinite period.

I’m 3 weeks into a new contract with no pay – what should I do?
Contractors experiencing payment problems can take formal action, but it’s best to discuss the problem with the agency and client first.

Can my agency insist on paying me only when it has been paid?
Contractors receiving a contract from an agent with a paid-when-paid clause should not initially be concerned, says Parity’s Alan Rommel.

Can my client refuse to pay me on the basis they’ve not been paid?
Contractors shouldn’t have to wait for payment until their client has been paid, unless the contract expressly says so, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can clients withhold payment over disputes about equipment not returned?
Clients do have the right to claim compensation from contractors who lose equipment but, as David Royden of Laytons Solicitors explains, they cannot withhold payment.

Can my agency refuse to pay an approved and signed timesheet?
If a contractor has a signed timesheet from their client, and with no complaints, the agency must generally pay up, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can my agency withhold pay if I left the contract without notice?
The law of contract applies if a contractor defaults on contractual obligations & leaves a contract early without notice, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

How much should my umbrella pay me for antenatal appointments?
Contractors’ umbrella companies are required by law to pay them when taking time off to attend antenatal appointments, explains Parasol’s Derek Kelly.

Should my umbrella company still pay me when my contract ends?
Contractors at the end of their contract may be due further payments by their umbrella, and may also qualify for benefits, says Parasol’s Derek Kelly.

^ TopTermination

Can I leave early even without a termination clause?
Advises an unhappy contractor how to get out of a contract without a termination clause.

Can clients terminate you before the contract ends?
This agency sent a contractor home a week early and threatened to refuse a reference if the contractor didn't go. The contractor can sue for the full value of the contract, and he can even take action about the reference.

Can I sue the agent for failing to give notice?
If your agent doesn't respect the terms in your contract regarding notice, you still get paid. But you should be careful not to overreact and breach the contract yourself.

Can I legally challenge early termination by my client?
When contractors are terminated early, close examination of contracts can sometimes confirm there is no legal solution, warns Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can my agency charge a £5,000 penalty for early termination?
Contractors with a penalty clause in their contracts should check to ensure that it is legal under English law, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

I was injured on contract then terminated. What are my options?
Compensation prospects for contractors suffering an injury in their client’s workplace depend on establishing fault, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Did I breach the contract by leaving early?
If your contract doesn't permit termination, you have to stay the time. Leave early and you could be liable for damages.

Can I sue for a a last-minute contract cancellation?
If the client cancels at the last minute, you probably have the right to get some money for the time and effort you've made.

I’m pregnant & want to leave a contract early; can my client sue?
A seemingly simple case of a pregnant contractor can potentially escalate into a complex legal wrangle says Brabners Chaffe Street’s Paul Chamberlain.

Can I escape a contract for services with no termination clause?
Contractors with a business-to-business contract for services can’t exit a contract unless the contract itself allows it, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Can the client use threat of termination?
Clients shouldn't pressure contractors with threats of termination but in case they do, contractors should have their 'escape pod' of proof of delivery prepared.

How can I get out of my first contract with my former employer?
Contracting for a former employer can create a range of challenges for contractors, even for umbrella company contractors with no fears.

Can another contractor fire me?
Contractors can’t be fired, only terminated if in breach of contract; contractor project managers are unlikely to have the power to terminate alone.

Do I owe my agency damages after it terminated me for being ill?
Contractors unable to fulfil their contracts due to illness may not necessarily be liable for breach of contract, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Do I need to give notice if there is no written contract?
Contractors can’t just quit a role, even if there is no written contract. There may be an implied termination clause, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Do contract terms still apply if I start the contract early?
Contractors requested & agreeing to start work on a contract early are likely to find that all the terms will apply, explains Roger Sinclair of Egos.

^ TopRenewals

Should I accept an early contract renewal offer?
A contractor asks advice about renewing a contract 2 months early with no rate rise.

How often should I change contracts?
Contractor Doctor explains the factors when considering how long to stay at a client site.

Can I change contract terms to be outside IR35 during a contract?
Changing contract terms to be outside it during an existing contract.

Is it possible to negotiate a rise when there are 'no rises'?
Aspects to consider when the client says they will not pay more money.

How can I avoid late contract renewals?
Contractors should politely pressure agents and clients to ensure that they don't get too short contracts or too short renewals.

Can my agent force a margin increase on renewal?
Agents like to force through margin increases when contract renewal time comes up. They have the right to try to do this, but they cannot oblige you to do it.

I've signed a terrible deal. what can I do?
If you sign a bad contract, there is little to be done about it. But you should hear warning bells when the agent asks for certain things. And there may be some help you can expect from the client.

Can the agent renew my contract automatically?
An agent cannot renew your contract unless there is a clause in it that allows for automatic renewal.

Can my umbrella and agency change my payment terms without my agreement?
Contractors are safe from mid-term contract changes, but renewals can be used by all sides to improve their position, says Roger Sinclair of Egos.

My client wants me to commit to future contract rates – can they?
Contractors asked to agree a contract committing them to future contracts and pay rates should be wary of signing up, warns Roger Sinclair of Egos.

Client won’t renew after 2 years fearing employment rights
Contractors are service providers, so even after two years they don’t qualify for employment rights and cannot demand a permanent job from clients.

Am I allowed to use other agencies?
Contractors can not only use other agencies, but should do so to generate an ongoing stream of contracts for well paid and interesting assignments.

^ TopFinishing contracting

Is it worth going permanent after contracting?
Advice to a contractor who is considering accepting a permanent position at the company where they are contracting.

Can I claim Jobseeker’s Allowance if I have a limited company?
If you’re short of work, you can claim JSA providing your company funds are under a threshold, though it may slightly complicate your tax situation.

Can I claim payment protection working for an umbrella company?
When a contract is terminated, umbrella company contractors remain employed and can’t claim payment protection, explains Derek Kelly of Parasol.

^ TopRevenue Investigations

Can I avoid an HMRC investigation if I close my limited company?
HMRC can still investigate contractors who have closed their contractor limited company, but retroactive cases tend not to succeed.

What hardcopy paperwork must I keep for my limited company?
Contractors can keep most business records electronically, but there are documents that must be kept as hardcopies, says inniAccounts’ Matt Poyser.

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