The Job Offer

At the end of the interview process, if you’ve been successful, you will get a job offer from the employer.

Verbal Offers

Your first job offer might be what is known as a ‘verbal’ job offer. This is where the employer calls you (or emails you) and asks you whether you will take the job. Employers use verbal job offers for two reasons.

  1. First of all, the employer wants to fill the vacancy as quickly as possible. If you verbally accept the job offer, he can then stop any on-going recruiting for the role.

  2. Secondly, it does take time to put together the paperwork for a written job offer. Many employers do not want to go to this trouble if you’re not going to accept the job.

If you receive a verbal job offer, and you want the job, you should accept the offer so that the employer then gets started on the paperwork. Make sure that you’re happy with the offered salary first. Be prepared and willing to haggle with the employer to get the salary that you’re after before you accept.

When you accept a verbal job offer:

  • always make it clear that you’re agreeing subject to seeing the final paperwork, and
  • always ask the employer when you can expect to receive the written job offer.

Legally, a verbal agreement is enough to secure a job. However, it can be difficult for you to prove that an agreement exists unless you have some evidence (for example an email containing the verbal job offer). That’s why, regardless of the law, it’s always safest to assume that until you have a written job offer, you don’t have a job.

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the employer will change their mind or withdraw the job offer for another reason. You may need to seek out professional advice in this case, as you may be entitled to payment in lieu of notice from the employer.

Written Job Offer

After a verbal agreement, an employer will normally provide you with a written job offer before you start your role. This might simply be a letter confirming the verbal offer, or it might be the complete contract of employment for you to sign and return.

Only sign and return your job offer when you are happy with the terms of your employment. Once you return it, there is a binding contract between both parties.

Written Statement Of Employment Particulars

In England and Wales, the law currently states that an employer must provide you with a Written Statement of Employment Particulars (PDF) within two months of you starting your new job (i.e. up to two months after you have started the job). In some circumstances, the employer has to provide you with the written statement sooner.

All good employers in our industry will include this written statement along with their written job offer. When you verbally accept a job, most employers will understand if you say that you’re accepting the job subject to reviewing the terms of your employment before you start.

The written statement will state:

  • the business name of the employer
  • the employee’s name
  • the job that is being offered
  • the date that your employment will start
  • the location of the job
  • any additional locations that you will be required to work at
  • your starting annual salary
  • when your salary will be paid
  • the hours that you are required to work
  • if you will be required to work Sundays, nights, or overtime
  • your annual holiday allowance
  • any additional employment benefits (bonuses, health cover, that sort of thing)
  • the length of any probation period (covered in the next chapter)
  • how long your notice period will be
  • any collective agreements in place with unions (very rare!)
  • information on the company pension scheme
  • the company’s grievance procedure, and who you should take your grievances too
  • how to complain about how a grievance is handled
  • how to complain about a disciplinary or a dismissal

There may also be many additional clauses, covering topics that I haven’t listed here.

This written statement may all be in one document, but many employers split it into two documents:

  • your personal terms of employment, containing terms that are unique to yourself, and
  • an Employees’ Handbook, containing the terms that apply to every employee in the company.

Always read the terms of your employment thoroughly, and ask questions about anything that you do not understand or that you don’t feel is clear. If there are terms that you are not happy about, always discuss them with the employer. Many employers are happy to negotiate, provided that the changes you ask for are reasonable.

If this is your first job, then you might not know what all of these things are. Below is some further information which might help you.

Your Working Hours

The job offer should state how many hours you are expected to work each week. It should also state what time you are expected to start work, and how long any breaks (such as lunch) will be.

Many jobs involve a 35, 37.5 or 40 hour working week, starting at 9am, with an hour’s break for lunch. The 35 hours normally do not include your lunch break.

Many employers offer flexi-time too. Flexi-time is normally broken up into two segments: core hours (the times during the day when an employee must be at work), and the hours of the day when the employee can choose to be in the office. You still have to do your contracted hours by the end of each week. Flexi-time is often offered as an optional benefit, so that the employer can withdraw it if an employee abuses it with poor timekeeping or if the employer sometimes needs to schedule meetings during the optional hours.

The Working Time Directive

The Working Time Directive is a piece of employment law that originated with the EU. Under the United Kingdom’s implementation of the directive, no employee can be made to work more than 48 hours a week on average without the employee’s written consent.

Some employers put clauses in their job descriptions that effectively state that “you agree to opt-out of the Working Time Directive” by taking the job. If you’re happy with this, then there’s nothing you need to do. If you’re not, you’re entitled to challenge the employer about this. Many employers will remove this clause if challenged. Be wary of any employer who is comfortable asking you to sign away your rights.

Your Salary

The job offer should state how much you will be paid each year, and when you will be paid. This amount will be your gross salary. Your net salary is what goes into the bank. It is your gross salary minus income tax, national insurance and pension contributions.

Employees are normally paid monthly in arrears, at the end of the month. This means (for example) that at the end of January, you get paid 1/12 of your annual salary. This payment covers the hours that you worked for January.

Holiday Allowance

The job offer should be clear on:

  • when the holiday year starts
  • how many days off you get every year (these are days that you can take off when you choose)
  • whether this allowance includes bank holidays or not (these are public holidays that are fixed in the calendar)

At the time of writing, the law states that a full-time employee must be offered a minimum of 20 days a year annual leave, plus the eight days a year that are bank holidays. Some employers will offer more than this, and will advertise this as one of the reasons why you should apply to them instead of a competing employer.

Your holiday allowance states how many days off a year you can take. This is often referred to as annual leave. The holiday year may start on the 1st of January, but it might start from a different date, such as the start of the company’s financial year. This date should be clearly stated in your job offer.

You will probably be joining the employer part-way through their holiday year. You will get a pro-rata holiday allowance to cover the time between your starting date and the start of the next holiday year.

Additional Advice

If there is anything in your written job offer that you’re not sure about, you should always get additional advice before you sign your employment contract. The UK Government, the Trades Union Congress and Acas all maintain websites full of information about your rights and the law. And don’t forget you can always ask your employer for clarification too.

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