What now I've walked out on my contract?

Contractor's Question: I started a few weeks ago on a 3-month contract and was annoyed and disappointed with the role I ended up with. Stupidly, I signed a contract where I couldn't give notice for the first 3 months and had to carry out the full three months.

But in my defence, the work that I ended up doing was different to my role. I tried to just keep going without getting too worked up but finally had enough today and blew a gasket, telling them that it wasn't what I signed up for and then left.

I'm a bit worried now, particularly as I can't get anyone as a substitute, and wonder what could happen because I broke the contract. Do I have any leg to stand on considering the different work that they were getting me to do?

Expert's Answer: As with any contractual advice it's always difficult to be definite without seeing the contract and knowing all the circumstances, but taking the position as read there are several points.

Starting with the contract, if it requires you to do work that you are not in fact being asked to do then the terms you agreed to appear to have been varied. In these circumstances there would appear to have been a breach of contract, in legal terms a fundamental breach which goes to the heart of the contract (namely what you are to do in exchange for payment) which would justify termination. This would only be the case if the work you are to do was clearly set out in the contract. If not and you are simply relying on what you were told in advance you could still argue that the position was misrepresented to you, and again refuse.

Misrepresentation exists where one party makes a false statement which induces the other party to enter into the contract. In this case that would be that you are to do Job 'A' when in fact you have been asked to do Job 'B.' However there could be problems if you were asked to supply your services and skillset generally, rather than for any specific job. You must have some clear evidence of the misrepresentation statements that were made to you and which you say induced you to enter into the contract.

Finally your agency, if there is one involved, would have a duty under the Agency Regulations to ensure that the work you are provided with is suitable and that you are accurately informed of the nature of the work. Your agency would be in breach of this provision if the position is not genuinely suitable for you, but again you would have to establish why it is not suitable on some basis other than that you simply do not enjoy the work.

Subject to what I say, my advice would be to inform the hirer; and the agency (if there is one), that you are ending the contract for the reasons given. Legally, if what you say is correct then, you should be safe from any claim. However if the evidence does not support what you say and the contract is for 3 months, you could face a claim for damages for breach of contract if you end it early. As with all contractual issues it is best to get formal legal advice, but this guidance should hopefully give you the right direction.

The expert was Adrian Marlowe, managing director of
Lawspeed , a legal advisory for IT contractors

Tuesday 15th Dec 2009