The world and beyond – Surviving in the economic jungle

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Archive for November 2013

Guide to Job Hunting – Notice periods can be a drag!

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Ball&chainGetting a job offer is usually cause for celebration!

After all, it means positive and happy things are happening: It’s exciting and thrilling to know you have won through a sometimes long and protracted process, no doubt in competition against other equally good candidates, and you have come out on top. Well, done, congratulations all round, onwards and upwards.

But once all the niceties are out of the way, a job offer is in effect a legal contract between a prospective employer and employee. The problem with this, is that the employment contract only becomes valid on the day you actually start the new job. Now the long wait starts, working through your notice period or gardening leave. If you have a long notice period, this could mean 3 or perhaps even 6 months between giving notice from you current role to free yo up for starting the new job.

And during that time, things can change for both parties. What happens when something goes wrong during this time?

In a recent legal bulletin from the REC a similar dilemma is discussed, from the employer’s point of view. I thought it worth sharing here, as it has vital information about how the law protects a prospective employee where job offers are concerned. It does not make very happy reading!

My advice is to be very certain that you check all eventualities before accepting any offer, and to make sure that you are contractually covered for unexpected eventualities. Then try to negotiate your way out of that long notice period as soon as possible, to help avoid miss-haps. And if there is a long notice period in your new contract, take care not to accept blindly without considering the implications:

Question: We have unfortunately had to retract a permanent job offer made by us and accepted by a candidate due to unforeseen circumstances. The individual has now written to us to inform that he is going to bring a claim because he is now out of work having given notice to his previous employer. Please can you explain whether there is any potential liability in this instance even though there is no written contract in place?

Answer: The answer to this question will depend on whether the offer made by your company was conditional or unconditional. Generally on acceptance of an unconditional offer of employment, even if only done verbally, a legally binding contract of employment will be formed. In this instance the candidate could argue that on retraction of the offer your company is in breach of contract and he may potentially be able to claim damages i.e. a payment which places him in the position that he would have been in had there not been a breach. So in this case the individual could seek damages to cover the notice period that he would have been entitled to under the contract.

As for any breach of contract claim, the individual seeking damages would have a duty to mitigate his loss, in other words to minimise the impact of the loss sustained e.g. by seeking alternative employment at a similar level of pay in which case any damages awarded would be reduced. If the job offer was conditional on certain criteria being met, such as obtaining satisfactory references, checking that certain qualifications have been attained, or on receiving proof of the right to work in the UK, then the offer will not become a binding contract of employment until those conditions are met. If they are not met, then on retraction of the offer of employment, the candidate will not be able to claim compensation for breach of contract because there would be no legally binding contract in place.

Written by Cathy Richardson

November 20, 2013 at 10:25 am

Posted in Recruitment

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