Arbitration is part of the dispute process that’s available on fixed-price contracts if a freelancer and client are unable to reach an agreement through Upwork’s dispute or mediation assistance program.

During arbitration, the freelancer and the client pay for an independent, neutral arbitration company to help resolve the issue and make a binding recommendation (meaning the decision of the arbitrator will be final and Upwork will uphold their recommendation). The fee for arbitration is divided between the freelancer and the client, with Upwork paying part of the fee for contracts exceeding a certain amount.

Timing is critical


You'll be offered arbitration, if you qualify for it, in an email from Upwork. You have 7 days after a notice of non-resolution to agree to arbitration and make the arbitration payment.

Funds in escrow (dispute assistance)

When funds are still in escrow during the disagreement, you’ll first receive dispute assistance from Upwork before arbitration. If the freelancer and client do not agree to a resolution, you will have the option to proceed to arbitration.

  • If both parties decline arbitration after rejecting the resolution in dispute assistance, the funds will be released to the client
  • If both the freelancer and the client agree to arbitration and pay the fee, the arbitrator will review your case. The funds will be released based on the final decision of the arbitrator
    • Failure to comply with the outcome reached through arbitration will result in an account entity (AE) suspension, which may impact your ability to make payments or withdraw funds
  • If one party pursues and pays for arbitration and the other does not, the funds will be released to the party who did choose to participate in and pay for arbitration
Funds not in escrow (mediation assistance)

When funds are not in escrow during the disagreement, you’ll first receive mediation assistance from Upwork before arbitration. If the freelancer and client do not agree to a resolution, you will have the option to proceed to arbitration if it’s a fixed-price contract.

  • If both parties decline arbitration, the case will be closed
  • If both the freelancer and the client agree to arbitration and pay the fee, the arbitrator will review your case. The funds will be released based on the final decision of the arbitrator
    • Failure to comply with the outcome reached through arbitration will result in an account entity (AE) suspension, which may impact your ability to make payments or withdraw funds
  • If one party wants to pursue arbitration but the other does not, the participating party will have the opportunity to pay the full cost of the arbitration fee for a binding resolution
    • Failure to comply with the outcome reached through arbitration will result in an account entity (AE) suspension, which may impact your ability to make payments or withdraw funds
    • If the participating party chooses not to pay the full cost, the case will be closed

Frequently Asked Questions

Who provides arbitration?

A neutral, third-party company, Brief, provides the arbitration service. The company is not affiliated with Upwork, and provides a completely independent and neutral review.

What is the cost for arbitration?

When you are presented with an option for arbitration, you’ll find the cost in the email notification from Upwork. It is also outlined in our Fixed Price Escrow Instructions. In most cases, the freelancer and client split the cost evenly. If the cost of the contract is over $20,000, Upwork will become involved in paying part of the fee.

Do I qualify for arbitration?

Arbitration is available for fixed-price marketplace contracts after a decision can’t be agreed upon during mediation or dispute assistance. Both the client and freelancer must agree to the process and pay the fee within 7 days.

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