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Do you have to ask your client for permission to take time off?

In the recent IR35 case of the Alternative Book Company, the client’s control of the contractor was cited by the Special Commissioner as a key factor in his decision to dismiss the appeal, leaving the contractor, Keith Shepherd, with a bill for two years back tax and NI contributions.

Part of this control was that Shepherd was required to ask permission from his client to take time off. Clearly, there’s a fine line between professional courtesy or good old-fashioned customer service and having to get a client’s written permission, like an employee.

Following the Alternative Book Company’s case, now is a good time to examine existing contracts with your clients, and amend them if necessary. Or, if you’re in the process of negotiating a new contract, make sure you start out on the right footing. As Shepherd found out, not doing so could be very, very costly.

How do you manage your clients’ expectations when taking time off? How, and when, have you broken the news that you are taking a fortnight’s holiday in the Bahamas? Or in Blackpool? And has a client reacted badly when you’ve informed them that you’re taking a day or more off?

Published: 09 June 2008

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