Unpaid Overtime | Should IT Contractors on daily rates do it

Unpaid Overtime - IT Contractor Daily Rate
IT Contractor Daily Rate and what it entails

Unpaid Overtime for IT Contractors

We picked up some correspondence from another site where an IT contractor on a daily rate was being asked to do unpaid overtime, which he said wasn’t in his contract, and which his client said was in their contract with the agency.

It sparks the question, though, of what a daily rate is.

Some contractors think that if you were paid by the day then you needed to do whatever was needed to get your work done on time.

Others thought that the occasional bit of unpaid overtime was OK – and would help take your contract outside IR35.

Others again thought that it would be appropriate to work overtime on the project. Then take some shorter days later to make up for it.

Still others still thought that this was just a case of somebody wanting something for nothing.

Contracts don’t ever define the number of hours that a Daily Rate refers to.

I would say tha the most obvious number of hours, per day or per week, should be the number of hours in a standard week for their permanent IT employees.

IT Contractors on Hourly Rate

I tend to go for the last one.

It used to be that IT Contractors were on an hourly rate and so this didn’t come into it.

However, a number of years back the Daily Rate became a lot more common – and added a lot more confusion.

It is seldom specified what a daily rate actually entails.

You would assume that it equates to the normal day that a client company has for their permanent employees.

However, agencies are often the problem here telling the contractor one thing and the client another.

IT Contractors Doing Unpaid Overtime

In this instance the contractor was told that there was a fixed number of hours in the day and had that in his contract and the client told that the number of hours wasn’t fixed and that the contractor would have to do any overtime free of charge.

To me, it is clear.

Everything has a price and as long a client states that or agrees that in the contract then that should be the price. You shouldn’t be looking for freebies afterwards.

Unpaid Overtime – Something for Nothing

You wouldn’t go to a top restaurant and demand a free dessert ‘because of the prices I have to pay here’.

Try telling your plumber that because of the price he or she is charging you, you want a bit of extra plumbing done free.

Shops often have offers of ‘buy 2 and get 1 free’. However, if they are not on offer then they are not going to give you an extra one free. That’s however much you might think you should get it.

IT Contracting Daily Rate

It’s the same in IT Contracting.

You agree the price and then both sides stick to it.

It’s ridiculous for them to say ‘at the rates we’re paying you, we shoul get some free overtime from you’.

They didn’t pay you any more than they could get away with in the beginning.

They were simply paying market rates and entered into an contractual agreement which they are trying to override.

IT Contractors Meeting the Deadline

I don’t agree with the principle that you should do free overtime if you are behind schedule with you work.

What is behind schedule?

There might be a case for this if you had agreed the schedule in the first place.

Then, presumably, you would either do extra hours to fulfill your part of the agreement or you would take time off as you did it ahead of schedule.

Anyone who lives in the real world knows that the second part of that is never going to happen.

One Sided Agreement for IT Contractors

This is an agreement that suits one side over another.

We also know that they seldom agree the schedule with IT Contractors before they put it in stone.

We also know that they do not dictate schedules on a fair basis. They make tem deliberately tight so that contractors ‘work harder’ or longer to meet their deadlines.

Try getting a plumber in and then saying ‘here’s what I want done and here is what I’m going to pay for it. If it takes you longer than the schedule I’ve imposed on you then you’ll have to do it in your own time’.

As you can see, this is ridiculous.

IT Contractors are Small Businesses

The trouble is that client companies don’t really see IT Contractors as small businesses that their larger business has an agreement with.

If companies were to say to me ‘we have no more budget. We understand that we have an agreement in place with you, but if you put in extra time now we will let you have it off later’.

That would be enlightened and I would be sympathetic, but that is not the real world (or seldom is).

What they want is for you to do work for free that they neither have to remunerate you for or to pay you back with time off in lieu.

They seldom want to pay you. They are looking for something for free.

Stick to Contract Agreement

The way I looked upon it was ‘if you don’t want to pay for it then it can’t be important enough to you. If it’s not important enough to you then it’s not important enough to me and so I’ll just stick to the contract you agreed to when I came here’.

That’s what the principle would be.

Managers are too used to bullying their permies to do extra work and think that they can extend this to small IT businesses that they have a binding contract with.

Keeping to Contract Agreement

However, you would have to judge the marketplace at any given time and how much they need you as well as how good you are.

It’s all right standing on your principles but if you’re not very good or experienced and there are few other contracts about then it might be pragmatic to do a bit extra – especially if the other contractors are doing so.

However, in boom conditions, or even in normal conditions, you would expect that both sides would keep to an agreement that they both signed.

I certainly didn’t used to do work for nothing, i.e. unpaid overtime. What kind of businessman is that?

Do you?

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