I worked on a project which was advertised by a UK company as an internship after applying online. When I started this project, I quickly requested for a contract but I was given excuses as to why it wasn't ready yet, told not to worry about it by various people in the office and given more work to keep me busy. I got concerned when after making yet another request for the contract, I was told by the manager that I was on a "freelance contract". How this happened I don't know, especially after the advert made it clear it was a 3 month internship. As a matter of fact, the project was ended less than a month after I started and the reasons I was given were not convincing and seemed superficial.

None the less, I accepted it without a fuss. However the process of collecting payment has been arduous. For instance, the manager made several promises that I would not need a tax code or need to fill in any forms and would be paid promptly, but reneged on them and instead requested the following through email:

  • A unique tax code different from the one I already had.
  • A new supplier form which I filled in as requested
  • An invoice with hours worked and amount owed.

I sent all these documents and since the start of may, he has not replied to any of my emails.

I have his personal phone number and the email addresses of other people/managers in the same department, and I am thinking of making use of them but don't know how to go about it effectively.

This has dragged on for too long now. How do I approach this with the most likely chance of receiving the renumeration I am owed? Would calling his personal phone be better than emailing his colleagues in this project who I worked with while I was there, and how direct should I be?

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    Important question: were you working for them from the UK?
    – Lilienthal
    Aug 6, 2018 at 8:36
  • 1
    1. Which country's government issued your tax code? What kind of tax was it for? 2. Did they offer you the job in writing? 3. Did you meet your employer in person? 4. Which country do you work in? 5. Which country does your manager work in? Please edit your question to add this information.
    – Qsigma
    Aug 7, 2018 at 8:49
  • 5
    In future don't begin work until you have a contract signed by both parties Aug 7, 2018 at 13:15
  • Try ACAS, or other options listed here: gov.uk/pay-and-work-rights Aug 7, 2018 at 15:58

7 Answers 7


The other answers suggest that you should contact accounting. Don't bother, they won't care. Neither will HMRC - they just want the taxes; so don't bother contacting them. The job of HR however, is to protect the company being sued by employees - this will include interns. This is the department you want to talk to.

If you have the job advert, then you want to hold onto this as it highlights that it's the job you applied for, not a freelance contract which would require you to create your own company - which I assume you didn't as you didn't say you did explicitly.

So the suggestion is, call the HR team, by phone to start with as they may be able to rattle off any questions they need to while you're there; with the copies of the advert ready to email (so that you can send them while on the phone); and any additional communications and explain to them that without getting the pay and P45 that they are required to provide on termination of employment, you will be looking to take things further.

If they fail to act in good time; I would then look to the other answers regarding local Citizens Advice, or lawyers.


Assuming you are not in a Union (if you are, call them first).

The Blunt Approach

Send one final letter (by recorded delivery) saying that unless payment is received you will be instructing lawyers to begin recovery procedures. This is via the industrial tribunal system.

A Softer Approach

You could try your local Citizens Advice first for advice.

Be very clear in all communications that you are a “Worker” and not self employed — I suspect your employer will try to claim you are self employed to make it harder to recover the money. By the way, you are entitled to notice and also to any unused holiday pay.

If they persist in claiming you’re self employed, you can always suggest that you will have to get HMRC involved in this case of disguised employment (IR35).

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Aug 17, 2018 at 8:51

Hopefully this won't come as a shock to you, but... you've been screwed. They've had a month's worth of work out of you and most likely you're never going to see any money. You should have:

  • Made sure you got a contract as soon as you started
  • Made a big fuss when it became clear that the job was not as advertised
  • Made a big fuss when they cancelled the work early

Your best chance of getting any money is to send a strongly worded letter (recorded delivery) to the registered address of the company, attaching your invoice and demanding payment within 7 days. However, I suspect they'll then just ignore that as well. You then have to decide if it's actually worth getting lawyers involved - and the answer is probably not, but that's up to you.

  • 5
    I'd recommend contacting an employment lawyer - just contacting - and then add to the letter that if they are not going to pay, then that employment lawyer will be taking your case. Small claims court is another way. There, if they don't turn up they will lose their case and then it is very hard to avoid payment.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 5, 2018 at 21:14
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    Unless OP is exceptionally well paid, the claim he'll be making isn't likely to involve lawyers at all, just an online claim and a judgement by a magistrate based on written statements and documents.
    – Richard
    Aug 5, 2018 at 22:17
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    This is not constructive advice. You are simply shaming the asker. Aug 11, 2018 at 0:36


Your question contradicts your statement about the work.

"How to talk to client who refuses to pay for freelance work"

"...advertised by a UK company as an internship..."

So, which one is it?

Internship OR Freelance?

Probably should adjust your question accordingly.

Either way, collect all your communications you had with the company stating your position, type of work, duration etc. Most importantly the ones before you started as well as all follow ups until now.

Don't let them push you into the self employed / freelancer category, it will weaken your position in terms of laws regarding employment and will most likely end in you never getting any compensation.

Contact lawyers and official advice as was mentioned in other answers and see what they suggest.

Don't sign anything until you obtained legal counsel.


After re-reading it seems you already went down the route of freelance and sent invoices? Assuming you can't paddle back with a lawyers help and maintain that you thought you were an intern you might indeed not get any payment if they decide not to react to "stern" letters from you or your lawyer. They very well may be betting on the hassle and cost for you being too high for further steps, given that you have no written contract and your payment may be much lower than your legal fees would be.

  • Note that this is tagged "UK". There won't be any legal fees because the employer will end up paying them (both Scotland and England & Wales have a "loser pays fees" system). He can almost certainly find a no-win, no-fee lawyer to take the case. Aug 6, 2018 at 6:52
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    @MartinBonner is that always true? I know it is the 'general rule', but I don't think it is inevitable or inviolable.
    – Spagirl
    Aug 6, 2018 at 9:50
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    @MartinBonner court fees are not the same as legal fees. The loser will indeed have to pay court fees, but both parties will have to pay their lawyers.
    – UKMonkey
    Aug 6, 2018 at 9:59
  • @Spagirl : Fees are not reclaimable if the case is assigned to the small claims track. If your opponent offers to pay (eg) £1000, and you are eventually awarded (eg) £999.99, not only does they not have to pay your legal fees from the time of the offer; you have to pay theirs! Other than that, it is technically possible to have costs not awarded, or awarded in the "wrong" direction - but only in the most extraordinary circumstances (you would have to play serious silly buggers to run into that). Aug 6, 2018 at 10:00
  • @UKMonkey - Really? Is that specific to employment tribunals? [pause] Yes it is. In general, employment tribunals do not make cost orders. See chattertons.com/site/blog/employment-blog/… Aug 6, 2018 at 10:03

You unfortunately made a mistake: You worked without a signed contract. This is bad because it puts you into a very weak position. They have the power to withhold the payment but you can not undo the work you did. Also, in most cases, the company has the resources to bide time, while you as a private person might not have the emergency funds to survive without payment. This can make you desperate and pressure you to agree to unfair compromises you shouldn't agree to.

My advise in this case would be to get legal help.

  1. Collect any and all documents and correspondence which directly or indirectly describe (or at least hint at) your work relationship, your duties and your expected compensation.
  2. Get a lawyer specialized in employment law in your jurisdiction
  3. Show them those documents
  4. Ask them how to proceed

For more information I recommend the talk F#ck You, Pay Me by Mike Monteiro which explains how to make sure that you get paid for freelance work. Too Long; didn't watch: 1. Never work without a written contract, 2. a good lawyer is a mandatory business expense for anyone doing freelance work.

  • Actually, as I understand it, in the UK, it probably puts him quite a good position, because it may mean that he was employed by the employer and its entitled to the UK's full range of usual employment rights. Aug 6, 2018 at 17:27
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    "can not undo the work you did" - in the absence of any agreement, the OP might have copyright on something the company needs, depending on what sort of work it was. Aug 6, 2018 at 17:37
  • I was going to link to that talk if no one else already had. I second your recommendation, and that's a surprisingly good two-line summary.
    – Wildcard
    Aug 6, 2018 at 18:47

If you are owed money by a UK registered company, you are in luck because the law provides for a very powerful technique for small fries like you and me to recover the money.

Look them up in companieshouse.gov.uk and find the list of company directors. Write a "statutory demand letter" and address it by mail to all of them. Those directors share joint personal responsibility for the company's debts and have more to lose than the lowly person who hired your services and is not processing your payment. If the company don't respond with payment, follow up with a "winding-up order". The UK law ACTUALLY allows you to liquidate their company - no matter how large and powerful they are - to recover your money. I have done this twice, to very good effect.

See https://gov.uk/statutory-demands for detailed instructions.


It sounds like there are several departments in this company. One of them should be the Accounts department; direct all your communications to them. Don't talk to this manager directly again, and if the accounts department deny your existence (which is likely), then you'll have to decide whether to involve HMRC and/or an employment attorney.

If you do decide to go to court, remember that you're suing the company, not the individual manager. If you use the small-claims court, you cannot add your attorneys costs onto your claim; if they owe you enough money that you cannot use small-claims, then all expenses for fighting your case can become part of the claim.

  • There is no such thing as a "small-claims court" in the UK. There is the "Small Claims Track of the the County Court", and note that the OP does not get get to choose which track a claim is allocated to. Aug 6, 2018 at 6:54
  • One other comment: it may not be worth going to court if the company has no money. Aug 6, 2018 at 6:56
  • 1
    This might be a relevant link, it covers what ' often used to be known as taking someone to a ‘small claims court’ with links for different parts of the UK as appropriate.
    – Spagirl
    Aug 6, 2018 at 9:53
  • Actually for non payment of wages in the UK it the employment tribunal and not the small claims court you use. Aug 7, 2018 at 19:19

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