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I have signed a contract a month ago to start getting consistent work from a company. The boss promised me an average of 25 hours a week (but that wasn't explicitly written), but for the past two weeks there have been no reasons for me to come into the office, as there was, to my surprise, no work being offered to me.

Even my boss hasn't shown any concern at me not showing up. Project managers typically come to the employees for more things to do, but they are paid on salary. Here are some relevant statements from the contract:

To help [me manage my time] as he may have other projects and clients, the company will try to provide a weekly project outlook in advance when applicable.

While work may be performed outside of the [company] office, [company] requests that project updates and major milestones are done at the office. We anticipate that to amount to 2 to 3 times per week.

The last two weeks have fallen really short of these expectations. If I don't have work, I don't have hours to report, so I do not get paid. This makes me feel like I've been put on furlough, but doesn't that usually apply to paid employees and not contractors?

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what did the lawyer who reviewed the contract before you signed it say? –  mhoran_psprep Feb 18 '13 at 20:14
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Often the point of contract workers is to easily adjust the need for staff without dealing with the complexities of employees. So, in some ways, this is likely intended. If the contract didn't stipulate minimum billable hours, then you might be out of luck. Either way, you need to talk with a lawyer with some employment contract knowledge. –  DA. Feb 18 '13 at 20:26
    
Unless it is written into the contract, a company is free to dismiss a contractor employee at any time, even if the contract is for a specified duration. Likewise, the contractor can also quit at any point. However, it is possible that a specific contract might have language calling for penalties if either side cancels early, but I've never seen it for an individual contractor's contract. Between companies contracting out services, definately yes, but not individuals. My suggestion would be to contact your boss and find out what's going on so you know if you need to search for another job. –  Dunk Feb 18 '13 at 22:13
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@Dunk Beware giving authoritative answers to legal questions - this varies a lot between jurisdictions. What you're saying is not true in all countries. Where I live, for instance, a worker will under certain circumstances be considered an employee by default (with all legal protections that status implies) if he or she is simply working under "employment-like conditions", regardless of what contracts exist. –  pap Feb 19 '13 at 8:07
    
@pap - If anybody takes legal advice based on posts here then they deserve whatever harm comes to them. Normal people understand that people are posting based on their own personal experience and take that for what its worth. If I had more characters to put in my comment then I very well may have put caveats, but there's a max limit to the number of characters allowed in a comment. If your country has different rules that makes a contractor like an employee then I doubt the contractor route is very common there because not being an employee is the main reason companies hire contractors. –  Dunk Feb 19 '13 at 15:20
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up vote 12 down vote accepted

You are not on furlough, there is no expectation of exclusivity, and no guarantee of work is being offered in the sentences you have quoted above. Based on that it does not sound like there is any contractual obligation being broken.

If it were me in that situation and I wanted work I would make sure that I at least showed up at the office to check for work, and to let them know you are still interested in doing work for them. You may get some "pity" work thrown your way since you took the time to show up at the office. Take that work and and use it to demonstrate how professional and and high quality of product you can deliver.

If this trend continues for a few more weeks I would probably ask them if they are still wanting to take advantage of your services. I would explain that you understand there will be occasional periods with no work but that it is not reasonable of them to expect you to keep availability for them if they are not going to have any work for you.

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Good answer! I might add that a not too uncommon construct is to have a certain number of hours on retainer (i.e. pre-paid) at a slightly lower rate and hours beyond that as needed at a higher rate. –  pap Feb 19 '13 at 8:04
    
You are correct, I spoke with my employer and he said that the number of hours wasn't guaranteed. I think also an important point I forgot to mention is that this contract is valid for one month only. –  Chris C Feb 26 '13 at 18:29
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