Standard Working Hours for UK IT Contractors – What are they?

Standard Working Hours for UK IT Contractors
Standard Working Hours for UK IT Contractors

Standing Working Hours for IT Contractors

“What are the standard working hours for IT Contractors?” contractors often ask us. That’s especially by new IT Contractors, or those seeking to become new IT Contractors.

The answer to that is that there are no standard working hours for IT contractors.

In fact this has become even more non-standard with the introduction of the contractor daily rate.

Contractors Daily Rate v Hourly Rate

It used to be that they quoted almost all contract rates as an hourly rate.

Nowadays, they are almost all daily rates.

Normally, however, contractors work between 35 hours a week and 40 hours a week.

Indeed, there are three main working weeks for contractors.

They are 35 hours a week, 37.5 hours a week and 40 hours a week.

I’ve worked all of those as a contractor.

The only ones outside that I have worked have been 42 hours a week and 32.5.

I remember where the 32.5 hour working week was. It was at Reuters, just off Fleet Street in London.

I forget where the 42 hours contract was. Perhaps I’ve subconsciously put it out of my mind.

Contractors Work Same Working Week as Permanent Staff

In general, you will work the same working week as the permanent staff.

Although I did go to one place where the permanent staff worked 32.5 hours a week and the contractors work week was 35 hours.

That didn’t seem fair.

Daily Rate for IT Contractors

Now, as regards the daily rate, I remember this first coming in for contractors.

Since that happened, contractors are far less likely to get overtime.

I remember that I used to get a fair amount of overtime.

They paid it at time and a third, time and a half and double time if you were very lucky.

With the advent of the contractor daily rate it became much harder to get clients to agree to overtime.

They calim that you are on a daily rate and that you have to work however, many hours in a day that you need to complete your tasks.

However, the time they allocate for these tasks is very seldom an agreement with you. In the main they are an imposition on you.

So, expecting you to work all the hours in a day that you need to complete the tasks is very unfair.

Recruitment Agencies and Clients

Recruitment agencies tend to encourage client companies to believe that contractors should work extra hours for free. It is a good selling point for them and they don’t have to do the work themselves.

Since the inception of the daily rate, any overtime that IT contractors get clients usually pay at single time.

As I said previously, clients do want contractors to work free overtime ‘because they are on a daily rate’.

However, the daily rate is a one-way street.

Go Home Early

If you actually got your tasks finished early they would not be very happy if you decided that you could go home early.

They would expect you to ask for another task to do.

That’s one good reason why work seldom gets finished early.

It is a good reason for projects finishing late.

After all, if a project has dozens, or even hundreds, of tasks they will all finish either on time or late.

So, unless they all finish on time, the project will be late and over budget.

There is nothing in it for contractors, or permanent IT staff, to finish tasks early.

Work from Home

One way that UK IT Contractors can get round this is to get permission to work from home.

That way, if you manage to get tasks done early, the time saved is your own.

It’s just a shame that there is no mechanism to reward IT Contractors for getting work finished early.

That would be a great boost to the chances of getting projects finished on time and ahead of budget.

However there isn’t.

Standard Working Hours of Permanent Staff

What most contractors end up doing is working the standard working hours that the permanent staff at a company work.

At some places contractors will be asked to do some extra hours for free if the project is behind schedule.

Some contractors will refuse to do it.

Others will do a little extra time as a goodwill gesture.

After all, they want a renewal of their contracts.

So, the standard working hours for UK IT Contractors is 35 to 40 hours.

After that, it is a game of cat and mouse with the client as to whether contractors have to work extra hours for free or whether they get paid for it.

Do, remember to ask what the standard working hours will be when you are at the interview.

That will save you from getting a shock when you start work.

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    1. Thank you for writing this. I have been fortunate to never have to work a 40 hour week, my contracts have been mainly 37.5 and as a gesture of good will I have worked over where necessary. A couple of my contracts stated 40 hours per week but that was not enforced as the permanent staff worked less and contractors followed the same working patterns as the permanent staff. I know I am making a huge fuss but my rate has been diluted. My last contract was 35 hours per week and now I am being paid the same for 40 hours and I resent having to be incarcerated at my desk. I probably just need to look for something else and leave. In future I will know to ask at interview, it has just never been an issue before in my 17 years as a contractor.


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