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Working hours of a contractor

Posted by: Intouch | 14.10.14

Intouch Accounting

Working hours of a contractor

There’s no doubt that the contractor life is quite different from being a regular employee. One aspect of this is the potential difference in working hours. The nature of contracting means that there can be huge swings in the amount of work to do at any one time. Sometimes it could be almost overwhelming and other times there could be nothing at all! This is part of the pattern of contracting life and the nature of ever changing market demands.

So there isn’t a typical contractor working week?

No. This makes it possible to work around your lifestyle. This is partly because contractors have a certain level of control over which contracts they take on. It’s also partly because while many contractors do all the work themselves, others may use sub-contractors to complete some tasks.

In general terms, once a contract is agreed, working hours will depend on:

  • Terms of the contract – Some will have set hours, others may be on completion of a task (a fixed -price job) and some will be paid by the hour, which may be a more fluid arrangement.
  • Project deadlines – It’s quite usual for there to be some ‘give and take’ by the contractor in terms of putting in extra time to ensure project deadlines are met. Those paid by the hour may welcome this, but those on a day rate may not. In some cases it could be worth negotiating different hourly rates on a contract. This way both contractor and client have clear expectations on this point. However, make sure that contractual provisions and working practices remain outside IR35 and you are clearly still working ‘in business on your own account’. Ideally, have all your contracts reviewed by your contractor accountant before signing.
  • Culture of the organisation – A recent survey of 200 City IT contractors found that 77% frequently work longer than their contracted hours. Given the frenetic nature of the City this isn’t too surprising. However, not all organisations or industries are the same and attitudes can also vary between city and more urban environments.
  • Client flexibility – There is a trend towards clients being more flexible with their contractors when they can do so.  Options like ‘flexi-hours’ with early or late starts and finishes, part time hours and being able to work from home are becoming more common in some sectors.

Though there will be compromises, a contractor ultimately chooses their own timetable. Also, over time contractors get to know their market so have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Administration time

There’s no way out of it. A limited company contractor has company administration and accounts to complete on top of the day job. However, having a contractor accountant to deal with as much of it as possible definitely helps.

Holidays and sick days

Time between contracts can be viewed as ‘holiday’, but these may not happen when you want them, so it’s useful to plan holiday time into your year. You effectively pay your own holiday pay, so it’s a good idea to factor expected income gaps into your financial planning.

Sick days will mean loss of earnings. Unlike an employee, contractors have to organise financial support during illness themselves. There are statutory benefits available to help and ideally relevant insurance cover should be in place to cover this.

There are no guarantees contractors won’t end up working long hours and there’s often a little more paperwork to do. However, the possibilities for flexibility are generally greater than as an employee and, of course, there is the potential for higher take home earnings.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.