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They can terminate your freelance contract with a one week notice, but on the other hand, we can't terminate the contract on our side under any circumstances.

All we can do is wait for the contract to finish and then not renew it. Its perfectly legal, a lawyer told me.

Well that should be easy to fix. Just keep showing up at the office but don't do any work. It shouldn't take too long before your employer gets sick of it.

They can fire you on disciplinary grounds (you ruining labor discipline or they can even try and prove you are actively sabotaging them). And then you can be liable for damages in court.

Believe me, they know how to cover their backs.

Call their bluff.

Surely they can't make you work, right? That's called slavery.

I agree, its pretty close to slavery. Theoretically, they could sue you if you don't work, although what happens in practice is that if the freelance is really fed up and talks to the end customer saying they want out (which the hiring company does not want you to do), they want to avoid problems with the customer and they will replace you with someone else after a few months.

What they really don't want to do is to lose the billable position. In practice, a lot of people will just suck it up to the end of the contract and then leave, especially if the contract is less than a year.

What if you just don't show up for work? They fire you, right? Do you have to pay some big cash penalty? Or is the hesitance just that you can't get a reference for your next gig?

Legally, they could sue you for the same value that they were charging the customer for your work until the end of the contract, which is the money that they lost by the contractor not working.

In practice, they will probably not do that as the HR team is busy with other things and the lawsuit might be bad PR, although a hiring manager that wants to get back to you for doing that might have the HR department sue you, legally they could do that.

This seems like it's begging for a test case to strike this down on humanitarian grounds. I can't imagine any western judge of any serious level (possibly some county judge in West Texas or something) would take seriously the claim that this wasn't a violation of basic human rights (in US terms, the 14th amendment, though I assume similar principles apply elsewhere), and that such contracts were unenforceable. IANAL and I'm certainly not a limey lawyer, but our notions of justice on both sides of the pond share a lot of DNA.

They are happy to convict drug users (even medicinal), so why would they be lenient on employers?

How are the two things (drug convictions and unfair labor contracts) related?

Human rights

That would be a breach of contract and would activate whatever penalties the company had written into the contract.

My bet would be that the contract's early termination would lead to some heavy penalty that effectively forces them to continue.

They can't actually force you to work but the contract can definitely have really bad early termination clauses for the contractor which make it extremely expensive to break the contract.

In the US, one-sided contract clauses are supposed to be thrown out (judge's discretion though). If they can terminate free and clear while you cannot, that contract is very one-sided and I wouldn't personally sign that contract for any price.

Sometimes I think an international one-week walk-off by IT staff would do wonders for the worker-employer relationship.

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