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What is my notice period?

Q. I recently worked on a contract for about 12 months where I was led to believe that the notice period was 4 weeks to me and 4 weeks from me. It was stated in the offer, written on the contract itself, and also stated several times verbally during the contract by the agency account manager. The agency account manager even agreed that it should be 4 weeks notice when I asked him after the notice for the end of my contract was accidentally given about 4 weeks early by the client. It was also clearly stated on the part of the schedule that I signed at the start of the contract and also on the renewal schedule.

While you may think I would then be entitled to the 4 weeks notice, the agency legal department then said they would only give me 2 weeks notice as they had a 2 weeks notice period between them and the client, and that there was a clause in the contract that said that they would not have to pay me if they weren’t being paid by the client. Afterwards while I was discussing it with the agency account manager, saying how unfair it was, even he agreed it was unfair and said that he believed that I should be entitled to the 4 weeks notice as that was what he also believed we had all agreed to.

As I was consistently led to believe by the agency throughout the contract that I had a 4 weeks notice period from the client and agency, and that it was in writing:

1. am I entitled to receive the missing 2 weeks notice (£6,000)?

or

2. (other than being morally poor) are they in breach of contract (or are they acting fraudulently) as they have written the contract in a way that deliberately and knowingly mis-leads their contractors (me and several others). (I believe that this contract is still in use and still mis-leading contractors to believe they have more of a notice period than they actually do have, so believe that this is deliberate strategy by them.)

or

3. is this a lost cause?

A. Your contractual relationship will be with the agency rather than with the end client and any recourse you might have against the agency will be entirely governed by the wording of the contract.

When there are competing clauses in a contract, it is only possible to identify which clause (if any) has precedence by a careful review of the wording of the whole contract.  Discussions or negotiations which lead to the formation of the contract cannot usually be relied up if there is an “entire agreement” clause in the contract (meaning that only the wording of the contract itself is relevant).

Unfortunately we are unable to advise you whether you have any claim for the 2 weeks’ notice as a careful review of the contract is outside the scope of this service.

However we would be happy to refer you to a solicitor who would be able to provide advice on whether you might have a case (although please note that such a service would be chargeable).

This answer is brought to you by Qdos Legal Services.

By Qdos Legal

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3 thoughts on “What is my notice period?”

  1. Eric Donovan

    When this happened to me I spoke to a contract lawyer who spent an hour or so reviewing the situation (for free in this case), it was enormously helpful. Her name was Parker http://laytons.com/

    My case was similar to yours, the agency was completely wrong. This is the summary:

    1) Agency was in repudiatory breach of contract because zero days notice was given on a two week notice contract when it was terminated (and it was terminated by the client telling everyone not to turn up for work the next day, I phoned the agency on the same day, and no mention of me continuing to come in to work was even mentioned until well into the next week)

    2) In that case I could sue for damages for two weeks notice in lieu.

    3) However I was under an obligation to mitigate those damages by finding alternative work, which I did the following week.

    4) This mitigated the damages to such an extent that it was not worth suing to get the second week of notice as the difference was only about £50 a day, and the agency had paid for 1 weeks notice.

    5) In any comms with the agency make sure you reserve the right to take them to court if you wish, no need to let them off the hook. This particular agency continues to accidentally email me about jobs 4 years later and I always email back reminding them about my outstanding invoice and how much there is left to pay on it.

    Good luck, I’d highly recommend talking to a professional

    • David

      Thanks very much for your reply (and for the reply from Contractor Weekly). It is a shame that there are some agencies out there that still take advantage of contractors, and rely on what amounts to bullying tactics to avoid paying what is rightfully owed.
      I’m considering my options and will consider Laytons as their Guildford office is not that far from me.
      It was also suggested by my Business Insurance Company that I go to ACAS, as they may be able to help me sort it out and will advise me of my legal position, so I have a few options which I am currently considering.

  2. Nik Sen

    Thank you for the information – the same thing has happened to me – the project I was working on was put on hold and I was given 2.5 weeks notice instead of the required 4. I pointed this out to the agency and they said they would sort it out so I carried on working – there were a substantial number of project close activities to complete so I continued with those and also looked at whether the work we had already done could be used on other projects. I managed to find a new contract after 3.5 weeks but when I came to enter my hours for the final week I had worked I found that my access to the timesheet system (and hence self-bill) had been disabled so I sent them an invoice instead.

    After initially saying they would look at how to get my hours entered so they could pay me they then refused. I engaged a solicitor who advised that I had a very good case, mainly because my schedule clearly stated a 4 week notice period and the contract itself only referred to notice in the event that the client terminated their agreement with the agency (which they had not).

    My solicitor wrote to the agency pointing out that they had an obligation to honour the contract notice period and they replied with a number of reasons why they should not (none of them valid). They then would not respond to further letters from my solicitor who has subsequently advised I should commence legal proceedings which I will do as soon as I get email evidence from the client I worked for (email exchanges took place using the clients email system which I no longer have access to).

    However, I have one additional question which I am hoping someone may be able to help with. One of the reasons the agency gave for not honouring the notice period was that the client had given me verbal notice themselves 10 days earlier and this constituted the actual notice. Whilst the contract clearly states that notice must be from the agency in writing, the main problem with this is that the client did not give me verbal notice and I wasn’t even on site on the day that the agency alleged this meeting took place. My solicitor has pointed this out to them and asked for them to retract the statement but they have not done so. Clearly this is an attempt to falsify events and is potentially fraud. My question – should I inform the police of this and, if I do, how would this affect the court case?

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