I am a software developer, working as a contractor in the UK. I am hired on a 6 month contract and paid at day rate. I am working from home unless I need to attend a meeting. Each month (they pay monthly) when I invoice, I need to submit the time sheets for that period, those time sheets should account for all of my hours.

The project I was brought in for is delayed and the manager rarely responds to communications. So far I have worked on a legacy application to fill the time but that work is about done. With no response to my emails/calls I am wondering where I stand on a retainer fee. Basically, I still want my day rate even if they do not give me work to do. Is this normal or is it common practice to only be paid for work notes on time sheets? Should time sheet say "I did nothing, waiting for you"?

Relatively new to contracting so not sure on the approach


  • What does your contract say about delays on their end getting you something to work on? Does your contract promise a certain amount of hours per week? If you have nothing to work on what do you expect to be paid for?
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:46
  • "...the engagement will begin on xxx and shall continue for a fixed period of 6 months..." contract wording
    – Lotok
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:54
  • That only describes the length of the contract. That isn't what I asked about.
    – Donald
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:12
  • I know, but it is the most relevant sentence there. There is no delay section
    – Lotok
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:23
  • Are you signed up to PCG? Did you have your contract reviewed by anyone? I recommend QDOS, personally.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


The contract agreement usually states that one party agrees to work for a certain rate, while the other party agrees to provide work at a certain rate. Companies don't usually say "yeah, you will have to take a 3 day break while we get organized" out of the blue. If they did, that would turn this into a legal question, but the standard practice based on my experience is that if you take on a contractor for 6 months, you pay them for the 6 months and you try to utilize them to the best of your ability.

My advice to you is:

  1. Communicate that you are ready to take on more work
  2. Fill up the time sheet with something that shows you to be doing something productive (ie. reviewing/studying code for project X), even though it's not the best use of your time

This will force them to pay you (since you've done something for them, even though it's not the best use of you as a resource), and it will force them to allocate you work since they will realize that they are wasting money. And ethically, this is the honest thing to do. If they don't give you direction in terms of what to work on, you do your best to be productive while voicing your concerns.

  • That's a good idea on the prep work
    – Lotok
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 14:50
  • Hi MrFox, I'm afraid this advice isn't accurate in the UK due to big tax implications designed to stop "fake self employment". @James, are you working within IR35 or not?
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:11
  • @Dan Can you please elaborate which part of the advice isn't accurate as well as the tax rule that it breaks?
    – MrFox
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:31
  • @MrFox It's the concept that companies can't suddenly ditch you for a few days, or that they should be taking you on a resource for 6 months and utilising you anyway they like. Here's a primer: contractorcalculator.co.uk/… As you can imagine, it's a huge subject and there's a lot to consider
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:45
  • 1
    @MrFox Large consultancy companies aren't subject to the IR35 legislation. You're kind of right in that the reality is somewhat different to what should be the case, but the point is, IR35 is enforced and he needs to be careful that he doesn't suddenly find himself subject to an investigation. In which case, evidence of being paid for not working or an obligation being put on the company to find him "busy work" will be very difficult to defend. There's a fine line, and one or two days sat around is normal for anyone - but sitting at home and billing for nothing is not.
    – Dan
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:53

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