The recent case of McCann v. Snozone Ltd ET/3402068/2015 demonstrates that verbal job offers can be legally binding and withdrawal of such an offer may constitute a breach of contract.
In this case, the employer (Snozone) engaged a recruitment agency to source suitable candidates to fill its maintenance engineer vacancies. Following two interviews, Mr McCann (the Claimant) received a call from the recruitment agency which offered him the job verbally. The Claimant's salary and start date were not discussed as part of this conversation.
Snozone subsequently denied that the Claimant had been offered employment and the Claimant brought a claim in the Tribunal for breach of contract.
The court's decision
It was held that Snozone, acting through the recruitment agency, had verbally offered the Claimant a job, which he accepted, and therefore created a contract of employment. As such, the Tribunal directed that the parties had created legal relations which could only be terminated by giving notice. It decided that, given Snozone withdrew the offer (therefore terminating the contract without notice), the Claimant was entitled to damages for breach of contract amounting to one month's salary as well as tribunal fees.
This situation highlights that clear communication in a recruitment process remains vital, whether you are using a recruitment agency, or recruiting directly. Employers are encouraged to make offers of employment to candidates in writing with an offer letter, rather than orally. An offer letter should set out:
- the job title and the offer of that job;
- any conditions that apply to the offer (which will enable the employer to withdraw the offer without breaching the contract if the conditions are not satisfied);
- the terms of the offer (for example the salary, working hours, place of work, holiday entitlement etc.);
- the start date and any probationary period;
- what action the individual should take to accept the offer (making it clear that the offer will not be deemed accepted until the required action is complete); and
- whether the letter is to form part of the contract of employment.