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As an independent consultant I communicate with my client through their project manager who is a full-time employee.
There have been new policy that was put in place by their finance department, the policy dictates how the invoices have to be processed, however as someone who is concerned by this new policy I asked the project manager to exempt the latest invoice which was sent before the policy was made public.

After a couples of email exchanges with the project manager, I couldn't get a favorable response from him, after all he is not able to grant the requested exemption, so I'm planning to ask him to redirect me to the right person in the finance department in order to ask for a temporary exemption.

Would it be appropriate to escalate the request and ask the project manager to redirect me to the finance department ?

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  • @JoeStrazzere I can't provide here much details about the new policy, but the point is that my income will be reduced because of the way the payments will be sent, so I seek a way to exempt the latest invoice that was sent before the new policy took place. For the upcoming invoices sure I have to comply with it.
    – elsadek
    Feb 3 at 12:16
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    As an independent consultant you very likely have a contract that dictates the terms of your payment. If they're making policy changes that alter that arrangement without your approval, you may want to talk to your lawyer. Feb 3 at 12:32
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    They cannot just one-sidedly make changes to how they pay invoices after the fact. Your invoice was sent before their policy change, it should not be affected. If they say it is, get a lawyer.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 3 at 13:01
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    As far as the wording goes, you don't need an exemption. PM or Finance probably cannot grant one, or it would not be a "policy". You just need them to not apply their policy to existing invoices retroactively. Something that would surely be illegal where I live.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 3 at 13:02
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    @nvoigt You've really never heard of a policy exemption? Seriously?? "Our policy is that no pets are allowed, guide dogs excepted".
    – deep64blue
    Feb 3 at 13:20

5 Answers 5

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Would it be appropriate to ... ask the project manager to redirect me to the finance department ?

Yes. The PM has told you it is not in their power to grant an exemption, so to politely ask to be put in contact with someone who has the authority to consider your case and decide one way or another is reasonable.

I don't see this as an escalation, strictly speaking - it is not the same as if s/he had told you they had considered it and decided to refuse the request and you responded by going to their superior to get the decision overturned (which would be an escalation, though possibly perfectly appropriate all the same).

The PM is also effectively telling you that they don't see it as part of their job/worth their time to argue your side with finance, or even refer your case on, which might be for all sorts of reasons, and might or might not be the correct judgement, but ultimately as this policy change has a material affect on you (you say in comments it affects your income) but not on the PM, it is in your interest to raise this, but only in the PM's interest if it affects their delivery (e.g. if you were prepared to terminate your contract over this change) or their standing in the company (e.g. if it really is part of their job, and their manager sees it as a negative that they did not take this up with finance on your behalf). In one sense you are doing them a favour by taking this up directly. If the PM is upset simply by you asking for the contact details of the person they are telling you is responsible for you getting paid less, you might have to put up with them being off with you for the remainder of the contract, though that reflects poorly on them, in my opinion.

Whether you get anywhere with asking for an exemption is down to your contract, local law and the leverage you have and are willing to exert (are you prepared to walk away over this, and is your value to the PM such that s/he would intervene on your behalf at that point?). I am not a lawyer, but for what it's worth, I think it is unreasonable (and would be surprised if it is legal) for them to retrospectively change the terms on an invoice already sent for work already completed, with the possible exception that some change in the legal landscape means they can no longer pay you according to the prior policy, at which point it would seem reasonable to ask to be compensated (e.g. with an increase in billing rate) for that change. For future work this sounds like a material change to your contract for which you can try to negotiate compensation, and walk away if the reduction in income means you can get a better gig elsewhere.

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Would it be appropriate to escalate the request and ask the project manager to redirect me to the finance department?

Sure. I would expect the project manager to offer that without you having to ask.

That said, I would think about your wording. You don't need an exemption. Your invoice reached them before the policy change and should be handled according to their old policy. By default. That is how this world works. If you want to make changes like a policy, one-sided changes, then the best thing one can do is "effective immediate". "Parking on company grounds will cost 5$ a day effective immediate". There is no way that "Parking on company grounds costs 5$ a day, effectivly starting last August, so pay up Carl, you are behind on your payments by multiple months now!" would ever be legal.

Call finance and make sure your invoice will be processed according to the policy in effect when you wrote it. Anything else, get a lawyer, they'll have a field day.

Do not ask for an exemption. That would mean you agree that your invoice should be handled by the new policy and you would like a favor. They are not in the business of giving out favors. They understand numbers and laws.

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  • Your answer makes me think that was the PM's mistake not the finance deprt.
    – elsadek
    Feb 3 at 16:04
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    Well, a PM that does not say "sorry, I cannot help you, you should contact finance, do you have their number?" is pretty suspect. Best case they are just rude. But in the end, changing a policy retroactively is the mistake of whoever is doing it. Whoever actually pays your bill. Finance? Accounting? Somewhere there.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 3 at 17:16
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It seems you are a contractor, you agreed on work and pay, and there is a “policy change” that affects your pay substantially. So you don’t care about the policy, but the money.

As a contractor, both you and the company can end the contract quickly. If the company reduces your income by 26%, you can either leave, or you can stay, or you can communicate that you are unhappy with the change and give them a chance to undo the change.

Since (26% less) is a lot more than nothing, you check how much notice you have to give (often zero as a contractor, and very often zero if they change your pay) and find a new contract elsewhere. If it’s enough money, you ask a lawyer if he can make them pay.

PS. Could you explain what kind of policy change that is?

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Hire a lawyer.

Whatever policy change was made makes no sense that it would reduce your earnings by 26%. If you performed work and invoiced for X amount, the company needs to pay you X amount.

There is no exception to be granted for your outstanding invoice, you did the work you deserve to get paid the agreed to amount. If you wish to continue doing business with this company afterwards, you can adjust your pricing based of their new "policy".

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  • A lawyer will cost me a cow and her calf.
    – elsadek
    Feb 3 at 16:09
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    Sometimes it's worth paying a cow and her calf to save the rest of the herd. In the US, the first consultation with a lawyer is often free. Feb 4 at 13:17
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Would it be appropriate to escalate the request and ask the project manager to redirect to me the finance department ?

Sure.

At best, your request is redirected. At worst, the project manager is offended and you lose the gig.

You get to decide if the new process is so offensive that it's worth the risk to attempt to override it.

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