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Facts about Disputes

Valeria K Moderator Member Since: Mar 6, 2014
1 of 43

Facts about Disputes


Being involved in a dispute with another user can be a frustrating experience.  Fortunately, they don’t happen often and open, regular communication between clients and freelancers usually helps one prevent or resolve any disagreements before clicking the dispute button. However, sometimes a dispute is the only option left. It’s crucial that the client and freelancer understand the process thoroughly and follow it precisely so they can receive timely assistance from the Upwork Mediation Team and benefit from Upwork Payment Protection.


Curious about the dispute process? Read on to find out how everything works:


Hourly Disputes


Who initiates a dispute for hourly projects?

Disputes on Hourly jobs are filed by the client if they disagree with the hours billed by a freelancer. The client may only dispute the validity of the hours billed and not the quality of the work through Upwork’s dispute process. For example, if the client notices screenshots that are not relevant to the assignment or sees low activity levels in the Work Diary, they can dispute those hours.

If freelancers want to benefit from Upwork Hourly Protection, they should be using the Team App to log time on hourly projects. By doing so, and following the steps outlined in our Payment Protection article here, a freelancer is taking all of the necessary steps to have their payments covered.


When can a client file a dispute on an hourly job?

The client can only file a dispute during the review period - from Monday at 12 noon UTC until Friday at 23:59 UTC following the work week.


How can a client file an hourly dispute?

To file a dispute as a client, click on the contract title on the Freelancers page, click the “Dispute” button, fill out the form and submit it. To read more about filing an hourly dispute click here.


What happens next?

Once a dispute is filed, the freelancer's weekly limit on the contract will be set to '0' until the dispute is accepted or closed. The Freelancer will be notified about the dispute and has to respond by either accepting or rejecting it. In order to respond, freelancers will click on the job title on the Contracts page. Click on weekly hours total on the Hours Worked panel, fill out the form and submit. Alternatively, the freelancer can follow the link in the notification.

  • If the freelancer accepts the dispute, all disputed hours are refunded to the client.
  • If the freelancer rejects the dispute, Upwork’s Mediation Team will review the Work Diary. Any hours that don’t qualify for Upwork Hourly Protection will be refunded to the client and the remaining billed hours will be paid to the freelancer according to the Weekly Billing Cycle.
  • If the freelancer does not respond to the dispute notification within 3 business days, the disputed hours will be refunded to the client.
  • If the client cancels the dispute, all the hours will be paid according to the Weekly Cycle.
  • Once a dispute is opened, the number of hours being disputed may not be changed.
  • Once a dispute is closed it may not be reopened. However, the contract is still eligible for mediation - through which we attempt to help the client and freelancer come to an agreement.
  • Hourly disputes are reviewed by a mediation agent and resolved within 4 business days.

Read more about responding to an hourly dispute here and check Hourly, Bonus, and Expense Payment Agreement with Escrow Instructions for more details.

Hourly Mediation


Clients may request mediation assistance by contacting Upwork Support within 30 days of the last payment on a contract. The Mediation Team will work with both users to resolve the dispute. If no agreement can be reached, the Mediation Agent will review the last 30 days of logged time. Upwork will authorize payment of all hours that meet the criteria for Hourly Payment Protection The freelancer may refund the  hours for work that does not clearly relate to the client’s project, or they must reach another agreement with the client with respect to those hours.


Fixed-Price Disputes


Who initiates a dispute on a fixed-price job?

Disputes on fixed-price contracts are filed by the freelancer if they delivered work according to the terms but the client fails to release the funds from Escrow. In most cases, Clients release Escrow payments after receiving and approving work, preventing the need to ever dispute a job.


When can a freelancer file a dispute on a fixed-price job?

When the client ends a fixed-price contract and requests a refund of Escrow, the freelancer has 7 days to either approve the refund or file a dispute. If the freelancer doesn’t reply to a refund request within 7 days, the funds from Escrow will be returned to the client.


How can a freelancer file a fixed-price dispute on an ended contract?

  • Under the My Jobs tab click “View Request” next to an ended contract
  • Click “Do not Approve” on the refund request and then click “Next.”
  • Fill out the form and provide evidence that the job was completed and the payment is due.
  • Click “Continue” to review and agree to the dispute process.


How can a freelancer file a fixed-price dispute on an active contract?

A freelancer can also dispute a client’s failure to release a payment on an active fixed-price contract by submitting a request here.


Read more about filing a fixed-price dispute here.


What happens next?

The dispute will enter a mediation process with an Upwork dispute specialist assisting both parties. If the client and freelancer are unable to come to a mutual agreement, the dispute specialist may provide a non-binding recommendation. If the recommendation is rejected, the client and freelancer may choose to proceed to arbitration for a fee.


Fixed-Price Mediation


Clients may request mediation assistance by contacting Upwork Support within 30 days of the last payment on a contract. The Mediation Team will work with both users to resolve the dispute. If no agreement can be reached, the client and freelancer are given the option to pursue the matter through arbitration. Arbitration must be requested and paid for by the 30th day of the dispute process. Once a user pays for arbitration, the other user is required to participate and must make the arbitration payment within 2 business days.




Arbitration is provided by American Arbitration Association (AAA), a neutral third-party arbitration provider. The fee for arbitration is $875 and is split three ways, with the client, the freelancer and Upwork each paying one third of the fee. AAA handles the arbitration process in full. The process may take up to 30 days before the arbitrator provides the decision.


Important Arbitration Notes:

  • If one party pays for arbitration and the other does not, the dispute is found in the paying party’s favor. Escrow is released to the paying party and the arbitration fees are returned.
  • Arbitration fees are non-refundable once the case is filed with AAA.
  • Upwork carries out arbitration rulings within 2 business days of receipt

Please refer to Fixed-Price Escrow Instructions for more details.


We know even the best freelancers and clients sometimes have disagreements, and that’s why we have a dispute system in place. We also have a highly skilled, dedicated team in place to help guide both parties through these unfortunate situations. Again, disputes on Upwork are rare and are largely avoided because of the professionalism and collaboration from all of you. Hopefully, the information we’ve shared above and the team in place will give you comfort if you end up in a dispute.

Let us know here if you have any questions about this process. Keep in mind, each situation is different, so we won’t be able to discuss specific cases here on the Community.

~ Valeria
Ace Contributor
Sultan z Member Since: May 22, 2016
2 of 43
@Valeria K I have a job my client just release $50 and funded $50 out of $350. My client want from me to upload the site on his server, while I request him that funded the amount before to tarnsfer the site on his server, he excuse that he have no payment at this time it must to show the site to his client on his server, I am just scare that if he refused to pay, In case like this a freelancer can do something or not? If not than why upwork allow the client to add milestone and not funded the whole amount to upwork? Kindly If you can explain my case may be its help other freelancer also. thanks!
Avery O Moderator Member Since: Nov 23, 2015
3 of 43

Hi Sultan, 

I checked your account and can see that the client has paid for the first milestone, and the second milestone is already funded. Once you submit your work, and request for payment, the client has 14 days to review the work submitted. If your client doesn’t respond to any milestone submission within 14 days, the deposit is automatically released to you.


You may file an escrow dispute if the client refuses to release funds for a completed milestone. Escrowed funds won’t be released back to the client unless you approve their return or undergo dispute mediation.

Ace Contributor
Sultan z Member Since: May 22, 2016
4 of 43

Hi Avery O,


Thanks for your reply but my point is this the its a total of 350, and he not funded the 250 yet so if in case he refused to pay so I can dispute for those 250, which he not funded yet.



Vladimir G Moderator Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
5 of 43

Hi Sultan,


Since our Payment Protection covers only funded Milestones, delivering the final product with only a fraction of the agreed amount held in Escrow is not advisable, since the remaining funds are not protected and can't be disputed. Users are advised to only deliver work that corresponds to the funded Milestone, so please communicate with your client and make an arrangement for the full contract amount to be funded before submitting the final product.

Active Member
Susmitha M Member Since: Jan 6, 2018
6 of 43

I missed the deadline but the reason is i was waiting for the clients reply to few of my doubts.


But what happened is he never reverted but requested escrow for refund.


What are my chances to get paid. Is it ok to file a dispute. I am even ready to submit the work.


Joanne Marie P Moderator Member Since: Nov 26, 2017
7 of 43

Hi Susmitha,


You can decide on the best course of action you will take since you are familiar with the contract terms and details. In general, if a freelancer delivered the work as agreed with the client they should be paid for it, and have the option to leave feedback for the client. Please check out this help article as well for more information about Upwork payment protection.


Active Member
Nicholas B Member Since: May 2, 2017
8 of 43

I have a fixed priced contract and the freelancer I hired has failed to fulfill his part of the contract. I have funded and released $2500 and have hardly anything to show for it. I am seeking a refund and am now not being responded to from the freelancer. How can you help?

Vladimir G Moderator Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
9 of 43

Hi Nicholas,


I'm sorry about your bad experience with this freelancer. Please submit a support request and share the contract details, so our team could review and advise. Note that clients should release the payment once they've reviewed and are satisfied with the work their freelancer delivered. 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
10 of 43

re: "Arguably, disputes are the least enjoyable part of hiring and working online."




I agree. That's why I have a "no disputes" policy.


There are ways to use Upwork - as both freelancer and client - that allow a user to never use disputes.


Clients, especially, can EASILY avoid using ever needing to use disputes. Simply manage your projects (or have a project manager do so). Monitor and evaluate the work being done. If any freelancer doesn't meet your expectations, stop working with him. Thus: no disputes, ever.