Contractors' Questions: What if my start date never begins?

Contractor's Question: I was unable to begin my contract on the start date because the client was delayed with some paperwork I needed to sign. A second start date was then arranged but that too has been missed for similar reasons at the client's end. Where would I stand on walking away from this role because of a never-commencing start date? I have signed the contract, which states I need to give 3 months' notice before I can leave the contract, and the same period of notice until I can start another one.

Expert's Answer: It is unfortunate, but not uncommon, to hear of a temporary professional being messed around with their contract like this.

The answer to your question depends on the wording of the contract. Most contracts will state that the company does not have to provide work for you.

However, different contracts will say different things about your position. Some will say that you must do work they provide, some that you can chose whether or not to do work offered, and some will state that you can work for others whilst still being subject to the contract. Obviously, you are in a stronger position with the last two variants.

If your contract states that you must do any work provided, and they are just keeping you hanging on as to when they will provide work, you could consider terminating the contract under its termination conditions.

If they don't help, an alternative is to write to the client with a firm deadline date for you starting, failing which you will consider them to be in breach of contract for failing to provide any work. Bear in mind though that this direct approach should only really be attempted if they have so far never provided you with any work whatsoever, i.e. a new contract, as your situation seems to indicate.

The expert was Gary Cousins, solicitor and co-founder of Cousins Business Law.

Oct 27, 2010