I’m self employed and due to start my maternity leave at the beginning of August. Do I need to update and send a revised contract/client agreement to my clients confirming the time off I will be taking? I have access to client databases so there is a lot of legality when it comes to my terms of agreement. The client’s Contract for Service does not either, but says: “Any notice to be given pursuant to the terms of this contract shall be in writing and shall be
delivered by hand or sent by post to the address of the addressee as set out in this contract or such other address (being in Great Britain) as the addressee may from time to time have notified for the purpose of this clause.” Do I need to advise my clients via a change of client agreement or notice that the contract will need to be terminated due to me taking a break whilst having a baby?
You have advised that you are self-employed and due to commence your maternity leave shortly. You have a client agreement with a client and you have made reference to the client’s Contract for Service. Your contract commenced last year and has a termination date for two years. Your client agreement did not make reference to arrangements in respect of sickness and absence, but advised that the clients’ Contract did include notice provisions which advised that notice to be given pursuant to the terms of the contract should be in writing and delivered by hand or by post to the addressee set out in the contract or such other address.
You have asked whether you should send a revised contract/client agreement to your clients to confirm the time you will be taking off. You have also asked whether maternity leave would be covered by the notice provisions set out in the client’s Contract for Service.
Based on the information provided, you have entered into a client agreement and a Contract for Services with the client to provide services until 2019. Given that your maternity leave is due to commence in the middle of the contracted period and the provision of the services you will be providing will be interrupted, a failure to provide the services as set out in the client agreement/Contract for Services could be perceived as a breach of contract and your client may claim for potential compensation to recover damages to cover the end of the original termination date (subject to the right for them to mitigate their losses).
In the absence of any express written terms in the contract, any proposed revisions to the contract (either the client agreement or COS) would have to be agreed by both parties. It may be that your client would be open to a variation of the contract in the circumstances. However, this may be a protracted process which may not be practical given the imminence of the commencement of your maternity leave. In the absence of express terms setting out the arrangements to cover periods of absence such as maternity leave, it may be reasonable to make reference to other express provisions within the Contract such as the aforementioned Notice requirements which may be applicable in the circumstances.
Given that by taking a period of maternity leave, you will be interrupting the service provision, I recommend that you write to the client as soon as possible and deliver the letter by hand or by post, explaining your intention to take maternity leave, how long you intend to take and the impact this will have on the service provision. You have stated that you have access to client databases and I would anticipate that the client may seek an undertaking or reassurances that these will not be accessed during your maternity leave.
*Samantha Tanney assisted with answering this question.