Can regular contract work go elsewhere if I get pregnant?

I am in the process of becoming self employed. My current employer has informed me there will be less work for me next year and it will gradually decrease. So I have decided to set myself up as self employed. This is providing Virtual Assistant Services. These can be ad-hoc assignments or monthly retainers paid in advance on rolling monthly contracts. If I were to have a baby, if I provide cover for the assignments that I have, are those contracts obliged to stay with me? Or if I take maternity leave, can they take their work elsewhere? Would I need to state something in my Ts&Cs? This is a big decision for me as I am the breadwinner and I cannot afford for my contracts to go elsewhere…

I note from your question that you wish to become self-employed and provide Virtual Assistant Services. Individuals who are self-employed have different rights to those who are classed as employees or workers (e.g. individuals who are self-employed are not entitled to statutory maternity pay and instead receive maternity allowance, if eligible). It is therefore important to make the terms and conditions of any contract under which you provide work to clients crystal clear from the outset and I would suggest you consider using a consultancy agreement (or similar) to do so.

In respect of using another individual to cover your work if absent, you should include a clause within the agreement to expressly allow you to provide your client with a substitute in your place, should you be unavailable. It may, however, be the case that your clients want prior approval of any substitute before the switch takes place. If a substitute is used, your clients may want the substitute to give direct undertakings to them e.g. relating to confidentiality and intellectual property. Your clients may also want you to take out insurance policies with reputable insurers to cover the risk of any loss, injury or damage caused by a substitute. You would also need to consider how remuneration would take place if a substitute was used. It would be usual for you to continue to invoice the client and for you to be responsible for the remuneration of the substitute.

In light of the above I would suggest that you seek independent legal advice when drafting any agreement between you and your prospective clients to ensure that all applicable issues are dealt with prior to the work commencing.

Should you require any further clarification on the above issues please contact Tracey Guest on 0161 672 1425.

*Helen Frankland assisted with answering this question.


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