Take the 2-minute tour ×
The Workplace Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for members of the workforce navigating the professional setting. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I am in the process of accepting a job offer and instead of sending out a written contract that needs to be signed, everything is done via email. Is this legally sound and normal?

In the past I have always had a written letter which I signed and then mailed or faxed back.

(The new company has behaved impeccably and explained that this their normal procedure and counts as a contract. Additionally they offered to look into getting a paper copy. They are a UK based start-up.)

Update Found this https://www.gov.uk/job-offers-your-rights, basically confirming what the comapny have said.

share|improve this question
1  
In common law at least (US/UK), what matters is evidence - a paper contract is just evidence of agreement generated by two parties, and no different from electronic records such as e-mail or SMS. You can even contract verbally, provided both parties act-as-if, and usually those cases are judged by the acts that reveal each party's understanding of the verbal contract, rather than what they say they said. –  jzx Jul 25 at 16:48

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Signing contracts over email is totally legitimate.

A lawyer I spoke to about this said that it's very rare for someone to deny their own signature, even when that signature is typed. He also said the only legal difference between a contract and an email is that a contract is carefully written to unambiguously lay out the responsibilities of both parties. If you email someone "I'll make you a logo for $500," and they email back "Okay", that's a contract, and you can collect in court if they don't pay up. Now there may be some disputes about when they pay, and whose intellectual property the logo is, and other details that a well-written contract will iron out, but email is just as good as paper for getting something in writing.

share|improve this answer
1  
One caveat: the lawyer I spoke to was American. Things may be different in the UK (or not), I don't know. –  DawnPaladin Jul 25 at 14:46
2  
For that matter, in the US, it varies state-to-state. Specific kinds of things (ie. real property changing hands) need to be in writing, and others don't. Knowing where the boundaries are in your particular jurisdiction is part of the point of talking to a local lawyer. –  Charles Duffy Jul 25 at 18:18

Free legal or medical advice on the Internet is often not worth what you paid for it. But if you have ANY doubt, you owe it to yourself to either pay a lawyer to give you a proper answer, or to take the simple step of asking for a paper copy for your own records.

Remember that the company's HR policy, and their lawyers, are concerned with protecting the company only; it's your responsibility as an employee to take whatever measures are needed to protect yourself.

Nobody should ever object to your request for signed paper. In fact, they will generally respect you for making the request. If they do object, that tells you something about them that you probably need to hear, even if you don't want to hear it.

I am not a lawyer, but my best understanding is: There are ways to do defendable electronic signatures. Plain e-mail is not one of them.

share|improve this answer
5  
I think going to a lawyer to write up documents would be a great way to transfer money directly out of your pocket and into someone else's. –  itcouldevenbeaboat Jul 25 at 15:05
3  
Your choice. I don't ask lawyers for internet advice; I don't ask the Internet for legal advice. –  keshlam Jul 25 at 15:07

Get a paper copy, and sign it. And keep a copy.

It might all be normal, and it might count as an electronic contract, and all will be well. Or the company could hit difficulties and suddenly everything changes.

If it's not written down, it hasn't happened - much better to be formal now than regret it later.

share|improve this answer

I'd say proceed with caution and if you trust them, then carefully move forward without a contract.

I've worked with contracts and without, and I found that having a contract doesn't really help collect money from clients who don't feel like paying. Assuming you do have a contract, if it's only for a few thousand dollars, the legal expenses of forcing the company to pay are often greater than the value of the cheque.

In conclusion, if this company is well known to pay all its bills on time then it's fine not to have a contract. If they're not, I wouldn't work for them with or without a contract.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.