UK employment standards: Am I owed pay for cancelled work?
September 27, 2019 5:14 AM   Subscribe

I work for a small, poorly-organized UK-based operation that runs pub quizzes in various venues. I was recently expecting to host a quiz but was replaced with a different host with very little notice. Am I entitled to the pay I would have earned?

The company on behalf of which I host quizzes seems to operate in a very loose manner. I have never signed a formal contract with them regarding my services, and most often I am called within a day or two (or less) of an event by someone asking if I am free and willing to host that quiz. Subsequent to a quiz, I'm paid a flat fee by electronic bank transfer.

I have no real idea of how the business operates beyond their interactions with me, but they have taken my National Insurance number and I do get an annual tax document from them indicating what I've been payed.

Last week I was asked to host at a specific venue on an on-going weekly basis and while travelling to the event this week I was called by the company and told I wouldn't be needed after all, and this happened 85 minutes prior to the start of the event.

I know that if I were working a more typical sort of job in an office or in retail I would be owed a specific notice period of a cancelled work shift or some payment for the shift in lieu of the notice -- am I entitled to the fee for this cancelled hosting gig, given the short notice and despite the fact that my arrangements with the company are so informal?
posted by chudmonkey to Work & Money (6 answers total)
Came here to say: it depends what's in your contract. But if you have no contract it probably means there's very little you can do.

You might want to have a word with them & re-iterate what both parties believe to be reasonable.

If they dick you around like this regularly, your next step is obvious.
posted by rd45 at 6:05 AM on September 27, 2019

No, it sounds like you're being paid as an independent contractor so unless there's a contract stating otherwise, you're not entitled to anything, sorry.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:24 AM on September 27, 2019

This doesn't sound like employment, it sounds like self-employment. If you don't currently fill in a tax return, you probably ought to, not least because you'll be able to offset quiz-related expenses against tax.

You could try to get them to sign some kind of terms & conditions document including a cancellation fee clause, but if they're that poorly organised I don't rate your chances of a) getting them to sign and b) actually collecting the fee. Generally, though, you're effectively running a little pub-quiz business and need to start thinking of them as your client rather than your employer.
posted by altolinguistic at 7:56 AM on September 27, 2019

What is the “annual tax document” you get from them? If it’s a P60 then, yes, you do “work for” the company and are their employee. It will say how much tax and National Insurance the company have taken from your gross pay. In this case you should have a contract that details your holidays, notice periods, etc.

Otherwise, as the others say, it sounds more like a freelance gig, and you should be keeping track of how much income you’ve had (and your expenses to deduct from that) so that you know what to pay tax on.

If it’s just an occasional thing, maybe on top of some other more regular work, then note that there is a £1000 annual tax free allowance on income from trading.

(I am not an accountant or anything and this isn’t proper financial advice!)
posted by fabius at 8:17 AM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

Additionally, even if it’s freelance, you could/should have a contract that sets out your rates and what you both expect from each other, which could include late-notice cancellation fees. (Although I’ve done a lot of freelance web development work without contracts, and only an email agreement, over the years, just to say it’s not unusual.)
posted by fabius at 8:47 AM on September 27, 2019

I deal with this in a different jurisdiction. I did a fast search on UK law and found just a proposed law, which I doubt has gone through yet.

What I would suggest really is that you call up whoever manages/supervises you and say hey, this was a real problem for me. I know there is legislation tabled about this but what I would like is to work out a mutually agreed on contract right now, can I send something over? And then draft what you would like (24 hrs notice or half your fee, or something?) and see if they'll agree.

The key will be to be positive, because (I assume) you don't want the company just taking you off their list.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2019

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