Your Employment Rights as a Freelancer – Your Employer Knows His!




Freelance work is a beautiful business when played out correctly. If managed well it can give you freedom as and when required, generally handsome levels of pay and a level of financial control that you don’t get from a 9 to 5 job However, you also open yourself up to all kinds of pitfalls when freelancing incorrectly, so it is imperative to know what you can use to protect yourself should a contract turn sour.


All freelancers need to be aware of their rights to work in the UK, and what their full entitlements are as a contracted freelancer. Whether you’re a writer, a web developer, a marketing consultant or a sales person – your rights are always the same. In fact, your rights in the work place are not that different from that of a regular employee and it would be useful here to define the differences.


Employment Rights vs Workers Rights

Firstly, a regular employee is the sole person under that employment contract and only they can complete the work intended as stipulated in their employment contract. A freelancer, on the other hand, is always liable to send a substitute should they be unavailable or unable to complete the job that day, or within a specific time frame. Of course, this varies depending on the job that is expected to be carried out and whether the substitute can complete the job to the desired standard and in creative cases whether the freelancer’s name was intended to be published etc. Also, any work a freelancer takes on can be undertaken parallel to other projects – it is not the concern of the client and they can in no way restrict other freelancing work, unless, for instance, working hours are stipulated in the contract. As long as the work is completed per desired specifications then the professional contract has been fulfilled and no further expectations can be made, unlike in a regular employee – employer contract where the employee is expected to put that position before all others.

Now, the most important point to remember, a self-employed person cannot, under normal circumstances, expect or demand to be given usual employment rights. However, a self-employed person can and does get worker’s rights. A fine distinction with some important points.

The definition of a worker is contained in contained in section 230 (3) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 as:

an individual who has entered into or works under a contract of employment or any other contract… whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual.


This, in its very nature, is freelancing and so workers’ rights should always be granted. Many clients have tried in the past to exclaim that, in fact, workers’ rights only exist if taxes are paid at source by PAYE. However, this is wholly untrue – there is absolutely no connection between your tax status and whether or not you are classed as a worker.


Under this distinction, though, freelancers do not have any entitlement to claim redundancy pay or fight unfair dismissal cases should deals turn sour. However, if you have been employed on a freelance basis for a substantial amount of time, have worked consistent hours for the client every week and can prove that you put that contract above all others (even better if it was the only project undertaken in that time frame) then in many cases you can expect to be treated the same as any other employee. Employee status is often something that will require some fighting, though, but if awarded that freelancer is entitled to maternity pay, sick pay and all the other benefits that come with a standard employee – employer contract. To consult your legal rights visit website of Coles Solicitors.


When Clients Refuse to Pay

When a client refuses to pay what is the legal discourse that should be followed? This is simple: When a service is provided for a proposed fee, the completion of one end of the bargain requires the completion of the other. Fundamentally, even if there was no legal document drafted and signed, a verbal contract is still binding and must be honoured by both parties. If the freelancer completes their end, and the other party fails to meet theirs, then they are not meeting what they are contractually obliged to. However, the golden rule in freelancing is to always insist on a professional contract being drafted, signed, and documented before commencement of any work.


Should refusal to pay continue, small-claims courts can be a great option here. Taking the client to court and fighting for payment on the agreed terms is the best weapon in a freelancer’s arsenal. However, it is imperative to ensure invoices are all up to date and on time always – with regular follow-ups should there be any lapse in payment as small-claims courts should be a last resort.


Fundamentally, a freelancer’s right are not so different to those of a regular employee, but professional advice should always be sought before engaging in any expensive legal battles. If you are a freelancer though, in any field, remember your rights always, as you can be guaranteed your employer knows his.

Michael Scutt, Employment Solicitor 

Employment solicitor with Crane and Staples, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Blogger & writer. I like cycling, cricket, football and history.