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URGENT HELP - Are UpWork freelancers an employee or a contractor according to UK employment law?

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Active Member
Ryan N Member Since: Aug 10, 2018
1 of 14

Hello Everyone,

 

I need some urgent help from everyone or someone who knows about employment law and how it relates to using freelancers on UpWork in relation to the UK.  I need an accurate answer to this, rather than vague ones, please.

 

If I hire freelancers through UpWork, and they work regularly for my company (UK limited company), for example, 10-40 hours per week on a shift basis, and let us assume they help my customers (customer service) and do some admin. Are they then considered an employee of my company in terms of the law (UK)?

 

Or does UpWork act like a recruitment agency, so in effect the the "freelancer" has a direct contract with UpWork, and not with my company, and UpWork has a contract with my company to invoice me for the hours done by the freelancer, so in effect its not an employee-employer relationship, but a "contractor" who invoices my company for placing staff or for getting work done. I know a lot of local recruitment agencies in the UK do the latter, however, I do not know if the same rules apply to a service like Upwork.

 

This is an extremely important question for us, and most likely for many UK businesses. We are thinking of expanding our use of UpWork, but it is important that we stay within the UK law with regards to who is an employee and who is a contractor/freelancer. And the answer to this affects things for us.

 

Please help with an answer if you can. Thank you so much.

 

Kind regards,

 

Ryan

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
2 of 14

If this is really important to your business, you will need to consult a local attorney who is a specialist in employment law.

 

But for your first (potentially accurate and probably vague) answer from the Forum:

 

Upwork freelancers are freelancers. They are contractors. They are not employees.

 

This a general answer. Does it apply to your situation in your country?@ I seriously doubt any Upwork employee will provide you with a definitive answer. They will advise you to refer to local authorities and experts.

 

Any other answer you receive here is going to be an answer you receive from an anonymous person on an Internet forum. It may be 100% accurate. Or is it?

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
3 of 14

Preston H wrote:

If this is really important to your business, you will need to consult a local attorney who is a specialist in employment law.

 

Upwork freelancers are freelancers. They are contractors. They are not employees.

 


 It is not as simple as that. Many freelancers with full time, long term contracts are legally and for tax purposes really employees and both the client and the "freelancer" could get into trouble.

 

However, the advice to ask a local UK lawyer is the correct one.

Active Member
Ryan N Member Since: Aug 10, 2018
4 of 14

Hello Everyone,

 

I am already consulting an employment expert. And I got the conversation going with the employment expert before I started the UpWork thread. So although I agree with that advice, I very shocked that given how big UpWork is, and the number of businesses using the service in the UK, there isn't more knowledge in this area.

 

Thanks.

 

Ryan

Active Member
Ryan N Member Since: Aug 10, 2018
5 of 14

Does anyone have a link to a copy of the terms and conditions between UpWork and the Freelancer, my consultant is asking to see this. 

 

Thank you.

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
6 of 14

There is no employment relationship between Upwork and the freelancer and all relationships are between Client and Freelancer

 

This is probably what you need

 

If you are planning to use UK staff on contracts that could fall under "Employment" - look here

Active Member
Ryan N Member Since: Aug 10, 2018
7 of 14

Hi Petra,

 

Thank you so much for your help and answer. I have one more area that I need clarification on. 80 per cent of the people I hire are outside of the UK, so based in US/Canada, EU countries and some Asian countries. Is the relationship between those people outside the UK still considered between the Client and the Freelancer?

 

Thanks.

 

Ryan

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
8 of 14

Ryan N wrote:

Thank you so much for your help and answer. I have one more area that I need clarification on. 80 per cent of the people I hire are outside of the UK, so based in US/Canada, EU countries and some Asian countries. Is the relationship between those people outside the UK still considered between the Client and the Freelancer?

 

Thanks.

 

Ryan


 Ryan, sorry, that is something I am not quite clear about. I am just a freelancer on Upwork although I lived in the UK for many years and am familiar with the reasons for you asking the questions you are asking.

 

I believe that at worst, you "get away with" it as far as the UK authorities are concerned, but that is purely the result of some research I did years ago when I still lived in the UK. It is not legal advice.

 

It would get more problematic if you hired UK based freelancers on long term - many hours a week contracts.

 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
9 of 14

Petra: I completely agree that in many cases an Upwork freelancer can be LEGALLY considered an employee, regardless of how the Upwork user interface classifies them.

 

The LEGAL definition of an employee is going to vary depending on the laws in effect in any given nation, state, province or local municipality. It may or may not make a difference if the freelancer lives in your country or not. What if you have your business incorporated in another country than your own? It gets very complicated.

 

If a client feels frustrated that Upwork doesn't provide definitive guidelines, I can understand how they feel. But it would be an impossible task to try to codify this for everyone on the Upwork website, and they don't want to open themselves up to liability issues.

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
10 of 14

Preston H wrote:

If a client feels frustrated that Upwork doesn't provide definitive guidelines, I can understand how they feel. But it would be an impossible task to try to codify this for everyone on the Upwork website, and they don't want to open themselves up to liability issues.


 Yep. Exactly.

 

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