Contractors' Questions: What if my agency won't pay for client-approved work?

Contractor’s Question: A recruitment agency I have given notice to is withholding £7,200, even though it is for work completed which has been approved by the client. The agency does not have a notice period in their contract and on querying this with their representative before signing the contract; I was told that it was an unwritten 4-week notice period. How can I resolve this issue?

Expert’s Answer: In the absence of any other relevant circumstances, your agency's conduct is wholly unacceptable and you shouldn't stand for it.

Your best course of action is to make a written request for payment; setting out the relevant dates worked and amounts due, together with details of the work undertaken for the client. Ask the agency to confirm their position in writing, as this will provide a convenient paper trail which a judge will want to see if this matter goes before a court.

If the money is being withheld on the basis of your notice then demand justification on the basis of any contractual provisions between you. Assuming these don't exist, it would be worthwhile setting out the name of the agency contact you spoke with, the date and time and the notice period conveyed to you.

Your next steps will depend on the nature of their response. If they concede that monies are owed to you then it would be sensible to arrange payment in a mutually convenient way. If they still refuse to budge, then it will be necessary to seek the court's intervention by way of a claim. Serving a statutory demand may not be suitable in this case, as these should only be used where the debt is not disputed by the agency.

You can issue a claim at your nearest County Court or via Money Claims Online. In the absence of any complexity, this will almost certainly be treated as a small claim, as it is for the recovery of less than £10,000. You will need to state breach of contract as the cause of action on the claim form and the amount you are seeking (£7,200). You will also need to set out the relevant facts and copies of any documents you are relying on, such as your contract and any relevant correspondence.

You may wish to engage a solicitor, but bear in mind that the cost of doing so won't be recoverable from the agency in a small claim if you win at trial. The small claims track is designed to resolve straightforward disputes without the need of a solicitor and district judges are renowned for their patience with litigants in person.

The expert was Aasim Durrani, a solicitor at Lawdit Solicitors Limited.

Thursday 11th December 2014