I work for a company (in the UK) who took on a rather large project, and being the lead developer I estimated a time-frame based upon two developers.

This, sadly did not work out and meant that I handed in my notice and was due to leave. Due to personal reasons I decided not to leave the company during my probation period and remained, on the same salary etc.. The understanding was that I worked on the project solely, but was able to manage the project how I saw fit, but this was quickly shut down once my notice period had ended.

My directory has suggested that I sign a contract that means that I would not be able to leave until all of the project is finished and if I did leave then I would be legally liable for damages and loss of earnings. Something, which I do not want to commit to for some reasons:

  1. If the project takes, let's say 6-12 months then I would not be in a position to negotiate an increase in salary, because my directors could turn around and say "Well, you're in a contract..."

  2. Being the only developer, there is way too much pressure on me to finish this project on time and to to budget. If I feel that things are not going to plan, there will be no negotiating and if I was pushed into a corner I would not be able to leave, at all.

  3. Doesn't benefit me. Of course, working on this project is my job and that's what I'm employed to do. However, originally discussed this was a two developers projects and with recent events, it's now being made clear that this would only be a single developers job, but my wage has not increased nor are there any incentives for me - Something I don't want to commit to incase there is another opportunity that comes up that offers more money, or better opportunities.

I do not feel as though signing this contract would be in my best interest. However, I don't want to be backed into a corner where my directors say

"If you don't sign this contract, we're sadly going to have to let you go"

But, I don't want to accept it and take on all this pressure and potentially miss any opportunities that may come up in the future. Granted, if I was a freelancer then I would not hesitate to sign this contract as in the long run it would mean I benefit from.

How can I therefore politely decline this contract change without effecting my chances or getting fired?

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    How long have you worked for your employer? Crucially, is it more than 2 years in which case "letting you go" is significantly trickier. In any case, I'd talk to your local CAB as I suspect the contract being suggested is unenforceable (but I am not a laywer). – Philip Kendall Apr 30 '17 at 20:23
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    Your question is difficult to understand because it does not completely describe what happened when. - You have handed in your notice? You decided to remain? Your notice period has ended? You are still there? – A. I. Breveleri Apr 30 '17 at 20:30
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    I'm confused - you have handed your notice in (and served the notice period), but now you're worried about being fired? – HorusKol Apr 30 '17 at 23:20
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    It sounds to me like they're trying to make you a contractor rather than an employee (mostly because of the liability clause) - counter with a contractors rates, and get yourself professional indemnity cover (from bcs.org or other professional body). – HorusKol Apr 30 '17 at 23:24
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    I think what he's saying is he handed in notice and then, before the notice period was over, he changed his mind and decided to stay (for "personal reasons.") Management apparently agreed, but now they've altered his responsibilities (denying him the ability to run his project "as he sees fit") and are asking him to sign this new contract that makes him liable. I gather that the OP does not want to be unemployed right now due to his "personal reasons." Personally, no matter what those reasons are, I would still say RUN. Figure out something to get by while you look for another job. – Steve-O Apr 30 '17 at 23:31

I don't know UK law and am not a lawyer. So the general saying goes: speak with a lawyer before signing anything that could label you as liable.

In any project setting, there are so many things that can go out of control that are not your fault. I would make sure that "liable" is well defined in the contract and does not go beyond a fixed amount of money no greater than a portion of your salary. A lawyer would likely advise you to strike that clause out before signing it. These types of clauses are often common in contractor agreements, but they are also easy to negotiate. You could possibly negotiate an "exit clause" that allows you to give 30 days notice to leave without penalty. Your employer won't tell you this, but it's easier for them to negotiate a contract with you instead of attempting to replace you.


"Doesn't benefit me"

Then it wouldn't be a valid contract anyway; a contract has to benefit both parties. See a lawyer.

Basically, you're being set up as the fall man. You're not allowed to run the project as you see fit, with sufficient manpower, yet they're asking you to be responsible if (when!) it fails. I'm not seeing the upside to this arrangement for you. Run. Fast.


You are hoping for two things out if this situation (not sign the contract and keep your job). One of them is in your hand and you should do it. That is politely decline to sign the contract. (send an email to all your managers that effect. Also offer them to help in the project as much as you can but without the contract. This paper trace may be needed for your second objective) In my opinion you should do this irrespectively because you are just not happy to sign the contract.

On keeping the job, I think you have to wait and see how the situation unfolds. May be they will not let you go. May be asking you to let you go for not signing a contract is not legal in the first place. May be they will revise the contract. May be you will find a better offer in the meantime. There are just too many possibilities.

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