It always amazes me when I encounter intelligent individuals who make the mistake of assuming they have a job “in the bag,” proceed to resign from an existing position, and then discover that what was “in the bag” was one big puff of smoke that dissipates before their eyes. For 20 years I have heard story after story of credulous individuals who thought that a verbal offer carries the same weight as a written offer. Don’t get me wrong… I understand that regardless of whether an offer is written or verbal, it is in fact a legal contract.
As I see it, the problem rests with the nature of verbal offers. Simply put, they can be so easily revoked or revised. And when this occurs, the applicant is placed in a precarious position. If they have resigned a previous job, they are hardly in a position to fund a legal argument for breach of contract, let alone file a case against the resources that can be marshalled by an Ultra-High-Net-Worth employer.
Each time I hear a story similar to the one above, I groan. I mean that. I audibly groan. So, repeat after me…
“I will not quit my job until a written offer of employment has been presented and agreed to by both parties.”
Say it again for good measure! Even better, say it out loud and absorb the message.
You might ask “so, what’s with the drama?” In response, here is a truth… Putting aside for a moment employment law, best practice for job seekers suggests that an Offer of Employment is not “real” until it is in writing and signed off by both sides. Make no plans, take no action, until you have received that written offer, reviewed it several times, sought the counsel and approval of an employment lawyer, and then, and only then, do you sign. Furthermore, make no plans, take no action, DO NOTHING until your prospective employer has signed back the offer and returned a copy to you.
Here is another important bit of advice… Hold onto that contract. Place it somewhere safe, where it will not be lost. If it is an electronic copy, print several copies and file them for posterity. A catastrophic crash of a hard-drive is all it takes to undermine an employee’s position with their employer.
Besides making an offer of employment a reality, the beauty of a written offer is that it establishes clarity for both employer and employee. It prevents misunderstanding from occurring and, in the process, protects both sides. Because of this, written offers are always in the best interests of both employee and employer. Why either party would eschew a written contract is, frankly, beyond me.
Actually, that isn’t quite true. There are understandable reasons why verbal agreements never find their way to paper. I think we can all imagination ourselves in the following situation. Verbal offers are typically made by an employer or a representative contacting an applicant and telling them they have the job. The applicant is elated and, in their euphoria, does not think to take the necessary steps to slow down the hiring process. For example, rather than simply say “yes” to a verbal offer, it is always a better practice to tell the employer that “I’m so excited by this news. I look forward to receiving the written offer of employment.” In so doing, the applicant makes their expectation clear to the employer and it is up to the latter to follow through.
In some situations, an employer might feel trapped by fear of an inflexible contract. In response, they resist committing an offer to paper. However, an offer that is well-crafted can make clear that the position being offered is a living and evolving one. There is language that can be employed to protect employers from inflexible contracts. A quick call to an employment lawyer can provide reasonable protection and reassurance for employers.
In other cases, an applicant might feel pressured by an employer to agree to start on a specific date. By agreeing to begin the job without receiving a written offer, the applicant can bet their savings they will never see a written offer of employment. Instead, the applicant should make clear that they cannot commit to a start date until a written offer is presented and agreed to. Applicants should let the employer know that once an offer is received and signed off, they can then give official notice to their current employer. The strategy establishes the professional bona fides of the applicant and places pressure on the employer to prepare a written offer. If the employer continues to resist, applicants should ask themselves why this is the case. In my experience, it is a clear red flag and sufficient cause for an applicant to think twice about working for such an employer.
That written offers of employment are essential is something of a “no brainer.” If we accept this, then what should a written offer stipulate? The answer to this question comes down to using the objective of clarity as a guide. A well written job offer simply itemizes the facts of the job. For example, it should definitely include the following:
- Name of the employer
- Location(s) of employment
- Title for the position
- Start date
- Bonus policy
- Description of any benefits and timeline for when they come into effect
- Pay periods (weekly, bi-weekly, semi-monthly, or monthly)
- Whether payment will be by cheque or direct deposit
- Identify any probationary period
- Identify the reporting structure
- Job description that is dynamic and flexible
- How and when performance reviews are conducted. If these are tied to salary reviews, it should be noted.
- Expected schedule that includes a stipulation for flexibility
- Vacation policy
- Sick day policy
- Agreement that all necessary tax deductions will be withheld at source by the employer
- Confidentiality agreement (this is critical)
- An explanation of any contingencies on which the offer is based (i.e. a positive result from a background check)
- An explanation on how termination will occur if it is required
- Addenda that include things like Live-In Agreements or Household Standard Operating Procedures
As mentioned previously, both employer and employee are served well by establishing clarity in the beginning of their relationship. Leaving things murky might feel open-ended in a positive way, but, more often than not, murk results in misunderstanding(s) that will cause employee/employer relationships to disintegrate. The uncoupling of the bond will always be a simple matter of time.
Finally, just because we are Private Service Professionals who work in family homes, does not nullify the need for standards of professionalism. If anything, the frequency of tragic stories where verbal job offers disappear into thin air or go through a process of drastic redefinition after start dates, should serve as cautionary tales that lapses in standards of professionalism almost always end in someone’s tears. My final thought is don’t let those tears be your own. Get it in writing… always.
Article written by Scott Munden who is the founder of Portico Staffing. Private service professionals can learn more about Portico Staffing by visiting their website >>> https://www.porticostaff.com