Contractors' Questions: What if my contract’s silent on expenses?

Contractor’s Question: Can a contractor who used me as a sub-contractor refuse to pay me my travel expenses after I have undertaken the agreed work for them on a freelance basis?

I wasn't notified before I started the work for them that they wouldn't be paying my travel expenses. I’ve been informally advised to take legal advice but would like some general information before I escalate the matter.

Expert’s Answer: Unfortunately your chances of payment come down to the contract in the most part i.e. what the two parties agreed will be the case.

In respect of some elements to your working relationship, there are implied terms (i.e. which do not need necessarily to be covered by a contract), but the payment of expenses is not included within this.

So where the contract is silent as to the position, unless it was expressly agreed prior to the project that expenses would be paid by the contractor, none would be due. There is no implied term that expenses are refundable and commonly a client or contractor will only agree to refund such expenses on a case-by-case basis, which usually has to be agreed (confirmed) in writing.

To summarise, the position over whether or not such monies are reimbursable will come down to what the parties have agreed in their contract (be that written or oral). Therefore a pointer for you for the future, I suggest, is that you need to ensure as a sub-contractor that the contract you have with the contractor, your client, clearly states that your expenses will be reimbursed.

The expert was Ben Grover, senior legal consultant at Lawspeed.

Friday 19th Feb 2016