Dispute an agency or freelancer’s hours

We know you take time to interview and carefully consider the freelancers and agencies you contract. On our end, we also want to make sure you only pay for the hours that are spent working on your project.

That’s why we created Upwork Hourly Protection. This safeguard allows you to dispute an agency or freelancer’s hours if you feel that you have been billed for more time than they worked on your project.

How to file a dispute

Very important to know

Contacting our customer support team or requesting a refund does not qualify as filing a dispute; you must follow the steps below to officially file a dispute. Timing is critical here. You must file any dispute during the five days after the billing period has closed. For example, freelancers must submit their hours for the prior week to you by Sunday, at midnight UTC. You then have from Monday at noon UTC until the end of Friday (23:59 UTC) to review those hours and file a dispute, if needed.

Billing cycle

File a dispute

Note:

When you want funds back, it’s often best to let your freelancer know and request a refund. This is the most direct way to get your money back. Learn more about requesting a refund.

To be eligible to file a dispute with Upwork, clients have a five-day review period that starts from Monday at noon UTC after the billing period ends, until Friday 23:59 UTC. Unless you file a dispute within this timeline, funds are released as scheduled to the freelancer. Once funds are removed from the platform, they can no longer be recovered. At that point, we can contact the freelancer and ask them to refund you, but we can not force the refund.

To file a dispute on an hourly contract


  1. Go to Contracts > All contracts and select the relevant job
  2. Under the Timesheet tab, you’ll see the hours billed from last week. Select Dispute
  3. You’ll see the billing period, the total hours you were charged, and how long you have to dispute charges at the top of the page. Read more about the dispute process and select Continue
  4. Enter the amount of time you want to dispute, in hours and minutes. You can’t dispute more hours than the freelancer has worked that week
  5. Select a reason for the dispute. You may select multiple checkboxes
  6. Certify that you’ve read and understand our Hourly Payment Protection terms and conditions
  7. Choose Submit

After you file a dispute


  1. We get to work quickly. We immediately alert your freelancer or agency business manager via email and a notification in their Upwork account. If they accept the dispute within three calendar days, we’ll refund any eligible disputed hours to you onto your original billing method (their hours may be protected) within three calendar days. If the freelancer doesn't respond or decline the dispute, one of our dispute specialists will step in to help.
  2. The dispute specialist will review and evaluate the contract’s Work Diary, using the criteria stated in Upwork Hourly Protection. Note: Although your account has technically been charged for the hours billed, a dispute puts the payment on hold while we review. Please allow up to one business day for Upwork to review and provide a dispute decision.
  3. If the specialist decides in your favor, the amount that was billed to you for the hours in question (including any Upwork payment processing fees) will be credited to your Upwork account. If the specialist decides in favor of the freelancer, the payment you made will be released to them.

After you file a dispute, you’ll be informed every step of the way by email. Your freelancer has three calendar days to accept or decline the dispute, and we may take an additional business day to investigate, meaning you’ll know the results of the dispute within seven calendar days.

You can check the status of the dispute by going to My Jobs > All contracts, finding the relevant contract, and selecting See Dispute.

Withdrawing a dispute


You can withdraw the dispute if you and your freelancer come to an agreement, or you decide it isn’t necessary. Once you withdraw the dispute, we release the funds to the freelancer and you can’t file a dispute for that current week’s hours again. To withdraw a dispute:

  1. Go to Contracts > All contracts and select the relevant job (select the Include closed contracts checkbox, if necessary)
  2. Select view dispute
  3. Select withdraw dispute and select a reason for withdrawing
  4. Certify you have read and understand the terms to withdraw the dispute
  5. You’ll be charged for all hours logged in the disputed week
I missed the deadline to file a dispute. What do I do?

Disputes must be filed by the Friday after the freelancer bills the hours. If you miss this window, you and your freelancer should work together to resolve any issues and discuss your freelancer submitting a refund. If you still can’t resolve the issue and are within 30 days of payment, please contact Upwork Support to learn about our mediation assistance.

My problem is with the quality of work, not the hours billed. What do I do?

Filing a dispute through Upwork’s process must be based on the hours a freelancer has billed you for. This means you cannot file a dispute because you are not satisfied with the quality of the freelancer’s work. In those cases, you and your freelancer should discuss the matter and work together to resolve any issues. You can also request a refund from your freelancer. If you still can’t resolve the issue and are within 30 days of payment, please contact Upwork Support to learn about our mediation assistance (see the escrow instructions for details). At that point, we can ask the freelancer to provide a refund but we can not force any action.

What happens if I withdraw a dispute?

If you withdraw a dispute before it is decided, we take no action and the payment will be released to your freelancer. You cannot reopen a withdrawn dispute, or file another dispute for that contract for the same week.

How do I get an update on my dispute?

You can see what the status of your dispute is by going to Contracts > All contracts and selecting the relevant job. Then select View dispute.

I was notified that the disputed hours aren’t eligible for a refund. Why?

Filing a dispute through Upwork’s process must be based on the hours a freelancer has billed you for. Freelancers and clients both receive Hourly Payment Protection. If your disputed hours can’t be refunded, it means our dispute specialists have investigated and determined that the freelancer had logged hours with acceptable activity levels that were relevant to the contract.

What if I have a fixed-price contract?

Fixed-price contracts are covered by Upwork Fixed-Price Protection.

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