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What happens if you withdraw a verbal job offer before commencement of employment?

In McCann v Snozone Ltd ET/3402068/2015, Snozone Ltd appointed an employment agency to recruit suitable candidates for two maintenance engineer vacancies. Mr McCann applied and attended two interviews with Snozone. He received a call from the agency confirming that Snozone wished to offer him the job with a salary between £28,000 and £30,000. Mr McCann verbally accepted the offer.

He received a second call stating that Snozone were pleased that he had accepted their offer. He was told that a written contract would be with him by the end of the week. Mr McCann later contacted the agency as he hadn’t received any documents.

The agency were aware of Snozone’s decision not to employ Mr McCann as the engineering consultant who had sat in on one of Mr McCann’s interviews did not feel he could work with him on a professional level. Snozone also felt that he would not be able to acquire the skills required to work on the equipment. The agency contacted Mr McCann and told him that he was not being offered the role.

Mr McCann telephoned Snozone and they alleged that they had not made an offer of employment either verbally or in writing.

Mr McCann bought a breach of contract claim in the Employment Tribunal. The tribunal upheld his claim and awarded him one month’s salary at the midpoint annual salary - £32,500. It also awarded him his tribunal fees of £390. His total award was £3,098.34. The tribunal held that the job had been offered and accepted by Mr McCann and a contract had been made. Once a contract is made it can only be terminated by giving notice based on the express terms of the contract. Where the contract is silent on notice, it is a question of reasonableness. The tribunal deemed one month to be reasonable in the circumstances.

This case is a reminder of the basic principles of contract law but it serves as a warning to employers who change their mind regarding a candidate after making a job offer even if the offer is made verbally. It is irrelevant that the candidate has not started work. If a contract is formed and later breached, damages may be payable.

This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publicising. QualitySolicitors Knight Polson accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek legal advice on your situation.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss a matter further please do not hesitate to contact us on knightpolson@qualitysolicitors.com  or 023 8064 4822.

Posted in: Employment

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