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Offers of Employment

How are offers of employment made?

A verbal offer of employment can become binding in the same way as one made in writing if accepted. Similarly an offer can be accepted either verbally or in writing.

Employers will usually make offers of employment in writing. The terms of that offer and any contract of employment will then normally be expressed to supercede any verbal statements, or any other ‘pre-contractual’ representations. If not then an employee may be entitled to rely on these statements and representations, or other written communications regarding the employment.

An offer of employment may be withdrawn at any time before acceptance by the employee.

How are offers of employment accepted?

Once an unconditional offer is accepted a binding contract is made. The offer and acceptance cannot be withdrawn without the consent of the other party, in the absence of misrepresentation. If for example an employee materially misrepresents their experience or qualifications, or the employer misrepresents the job, then the agreement may be terminated.

In the absence of that consent, an employer must terminate under the terms of the contract, usually by giving the employee pay in lieu of any contractual notice entitlement.

An employee cannot be compelled to perform a contract of employment. Although potentially liable in damages for breach of contract, in practice an employer’s loss is likely to be minimal and difficult to quantify.

What is a conditional offer of employment?

Offers of employment and their acceptance may be made conditional. The offer and acceptance do not become binding until the condition is satisfied.

An offer “…subject to satisfactory references” is conditional on the receipt of references that would satisfy a reasonable employer. Once that offer is accepted it then becomes binding if and when satisfactory references are provided.

Other conditions may relate to:

  • Receipt of a satisfactory medical report
  • Satisfactory evidence that the employee has the necessary qualifications for the job
  • Production of evidence that the employee has the right to work in the UK
  • Acceptance of the form of contract proposed by the employer

Employees will usually wait until an offer has become unconditional before tendering their resignation from their current employment. Once the offer is accepted, the employee will be entitled to notice to terminate, or pay in lieu if the employer subsequently withdraws that offer.

What about vague or uncertain offers?

In order to create a binding agreement the main terms of a contract must be identifiable and agreed. These include pay, the work to by done and when the work is to begin, but not notice to terminate by the employer. In the case of the latter, the statutory minimum notice will apply unless a greater period would be reasonable in the particular circumstances.

If the important terms cannot be identified from the offer and any representations made by the employer, then the offer and any acceptance do not take effect and are not capable of forming a binding contract.

Offers of employment should where possible identify at least the following:

  • The name of the employer
  • The job title or a description of the job
  • Reporting lines
  • Whether the job is full time, part time, fixed term or temporary
  • A description of the job and what it involves
  • Details of the any essential experience and qualifications needed to perform the job
  • The location and details of any required travel
  • Details of all pay and benefits provided
  • When the job is to commence

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