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Recruiters – What to Do if Your Contractors Walk off Site

It can be extremely frustrating when your contractors unexpectedly stop work and leave a client site, so in this article we’ll look at what recruiters can do to prevent this situation, and what action you should take if it happens.

Find out why

If you don’t already know, it’s important to find out why your contractors have stopped work. The appropriate course of action will depend on the reasons, so you need to know exactly what is going on before taking any action, or indeed making any promises to your client.


This is the most common reason for contractors to stop work, and it may or may not be reasonable depending on the details. If it’s just that a payment has been missed, your priority should be to resolve the issue and get your contractors working again. However, it’s also important that your contractors know what to do if they’re not paid when expected, and they bring these issues to you or their umbrella company before they take this kind of action.

If this issue is the result of a history of late or failed payments, you may need to discuss the ongoing situation with the umbrella company, or whoever is responsible for the payment, and get it resolved before you have another walkout to deal with.

Cardinal change

If the project has changed so much that the contractor’s role is now completely different from the one they signed up to do, they may be unable to complete the work.

If your contractor’s expertise no longer matches the requirements of the job, it may be necessary to source an alternative contractor to complete the project.  

In this case it’s important to find out exactly what has changed, and check the written contract for your legal position. In some circumstances you may need an expert legal opinion on how this situation affects your obligations under your contract with the client.

Safety concerns

If your contractors have left site because of safety concerns, this needs to be taken seriously. If the contractor is employed by an umbrella company, they are responsible for their employee’s health and safety so they may need to be involved.

Obviously, every effort should be made to investigate and resolve the contractor’s concerns, and if there’s a genuine safety issue you should work with your client to resolve it before asking your contractors to return to site.

Unable to proceed

Under some circumstances, the contractor may be temporarily unable to complete their work for this client, for example due to a power cut, or if the client’s computer systems have gone down. Depending on the nature of the contract, it may be reasonable for them to leave site when this happens. This will be particularly common where the contractor is working outside IR35, and does not want to accept re-deployment.

If this is being reported to you as a problem, it’s likely that the client expects to be able to re-deploy your contractors when their contracted work cannot be completed, and someone - either the client or the contractor – is unclear about the contractual situation. In this case, we’d advise that you review the written detail of the contract, and then discuss the situation with the client and/or the contractor.

Conflict with client staff

This is quite rare, but unfortunately it does happen. Maybe there was a clash of personalities between the contractor and the staff members managing the project, or maybe one or other had expectations that were not met.

If things have escalated to the point where the contractor has stopped work, it’s possible that they won’t be welcome back on site, and you could be looking at sourcing a replacement. Even if this is the case, you should still seek to understand what happened, so you can minimise the chance of it happening again.

A personal emergency

Sometimes things happen that mean we have to stop work and deal with them. In this case, you can reasonably expect the contractor to inform you and the client of what’s happening, and to return to work as soon as they’re able.

Where possible, we would suggest a compassionate approach to this situation. Your contractors are more likely to continue working with you if they feel valued, and the best way to achieve that is to demonstrate that you care about their wellbeing and support them when they need help.

How to stop your contractors walking off site

Most of these circumstances will usually arise because communication broke down somewhere. Either someone’s expectations were not met, someone does not fully understand the situation, or someone has not met their obligations.

It follows that the best way to prevent these circumstances is to keep the lines of communication open. Regularly check in with your client and your contractors, and encourage them to discuss any issues so you can head them off before they become serious.

It’s also a good idea to have a contingency plan, for example a list of alternative contractors who may be able to step in if you need a replacement at short notice.

If you have questions or if we can help in any way, please call our expert team on 01296 468483 or email

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