87

I recently started a new job, here's how the story went.

  • After the interview process I was offered the job, and told what the wage offer would be. For the sake of arithmetic lets say they offered me £26000.
  • I asked if it would be possible for me to work part time, 4 days a week instead of 5. And I was told that would be fine. So I'm expecting that I'll get paid £20800.
  • I received my contract through the post, it shows my contract hours as 32 hours a week rather than 40, so 4 8 hour days. It shows my wage as £26000, and doesn't mention anything about 'pro-rata' or 'full time equivalence'.
  • I started work mid way through August, and I received my first pay last Friday (they usually pay on the 27th, but that fell on a public holiday). I received pay for 2 weeks work, and they gave me £1000, i.e one twenty-sixth of £26000 rather than one twenty-sixth of £20800.

So they are paying me what my contract says but not what I assume they intended to pay me. The HR guy who will have drawn up the contract left shortly before I started (I believe he was a contract worker), but I assume that my manager was asked to look over it before it was sent to me!

What do I need to consider when deciding my path forward?

I'd like to know what people's opinion of what the contractual situation might be, and also what others would do if they found themselves in the same situation.


We have a probation period of 3 months at work, during which I believe it is easier to fire me.


To clear a few things up:

  • The discussions were over the phone so any paper trail will be limited.
  • When I asked for part time I wasn't told that it would involve a pay cut, I just assumed that it would. But other parts of the conversation make me think that the HR guy also assumed that was implicit, and that he didn't think it was a negotiation tactic on my part.
  • That's not to say I couldn't claim otherwise in any future discussions, because there's no paper trail and the HR guy has left.

closed as off-topic by gnat, Kent A., OldPadawan, Dukeling, Elmy Sep 2 '18 at 13:04

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  • 3
    Legal questions should be directed toward HR or a qualified legal consultant, or at least toward a legal oriented StackExchange forum, which this is not. Also, you might do better to narrow your question down. What exactly do you want to have happen? – Kent A. Aug 30 '18 at 14:08
  • 43
    I asked [...] to work part time, 4 days a week instead of 5 -> Have you checked with them, in one way or another (I mean, made it crystal clear), at that time, that they didn't get this as I asked to work 4 days instead of 5 (and missed the cut and the part time part, believing that you intend to work 4 days x 10 hours instead of 5 x 8) ? – OldPadawan Aug 30 '18 at 14:20
  • 43
    When you asked to work 4 days, did they actually say "OK but we will have to reduce your salary" or just "OK"? Maybe they didn't understand you were willing to get a lower pay and thought it as an extra perk. – algiogia Aug 30 '18 at 15:54
  • 3
    Have you thought about the possibility that you might be under-paid? Or that at least the first offer of the employer was very low so that by negotiating a +25% hourly rate you are still in an acceptable range for the employer and they are fully aware of and agreed to that salary? – JimmyB Aug 31 '18 at 11:55
  • 4
    If you signed a contract for £20800 mistakenly thinking that was for £26000, do you think you could go back to your employer and say "uhhh I made a mistake, please pay me more" ? – Ouroboros Aug 31 '18 at 18:07

11 Answers 11

51

You negotiated less work for the same pay even if that wasn't your goal. Congratulations!

The only situation that I'd consider discussing this with the company is if pay adjustment was discussed but didn't make it into the contract.

In large part situations like this are why we have employment contracts. If there is any discrepancy between the expectations of the two parties involved you can go back to the paper to see exactly what was agreed upon. Assuming the contract is well written there should be very little ambiguity. It is the responsibility of both parties to ensure that they are certain they agree to the content prior to signing. This situation is the flip side to a common trope on this SE that a worker gets screwed by not reading their contract.

  • 3
    I marked this as correct because, while the main point has been made by other answerers, I found the explanation in your final paragraph useful and convincing. – Lucky Sep 2 '18 at 19:40
282

it shows my contract hours as 32 hours a week rather than 40, so 4 x 8-hours days. It shows my wage as £26000

You're not doing anything wrong, it's in the contract, so you're not being paid too much. Congratulate yourself and work well.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Aug 31 '18 at 3:28
266

You were offered £26000.

Your counter offer was working for 4 days per week (32 hours).

They agreed.

Both parties signed the negotiated contract of 4 days a week for £26000.

End of story.

Congratulations on a successful negotiation and the new job!

  • 11
    This is a correct answer. As you describe it, you were negotiating and both agreed on the terms that were signed in the contract. these types of good misunderstandings (on candidate part) are very rare but happens, especially if its a first job or one after a period of unemployment. Sadly, vice versa misunderstandings happen more often. – Strader Aug 30 '18 at 17:09
  • 5
    Actually you inadvertently negotiated better results. It came from a misunderstanding but benefits you. Sometimes it happens :-) Once you have it in your contract this is what binds both parties legally. – Ister Aug 31 '18 at 7:48
  • This does seem to perfectly sum up the situation. – Fattie Aug 31 '18 at 14:30
44

So what should I do?

Make sure everyone is on the same page

If you wish for the contract to be continued down the road, I suggest you have a conversation with your manager, and make certain they are paying you as intended. Be honest and have a quick conversation about it. Most likely at some point the error will be discovered, if indeed it is an error. That same urge you had to post this question means you have some doubts as to whether or not you and you client are on the same page.

A short term gain is not worth taking advantage of a potential mistake by your customer/employer. Who knows, they may have taken your question as a negotiating tactic and agreed to pay you the same amount for four days of work instead of five.

As others pointed out, the error in the contract ( if it is an error ) should keep them from attempting to get any cash back from you. Obviously the error is on their part, if indeed it is an error.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Masked Man Aug 31 '18 at 3:30
  • 16
    OP asked if there could be any recriminations if the problem is discovered. There probably won't be any. I don't see what OP would have to gain from doing this, considering he might on the contrary be losing his benefits. – Pierre Arlaud Aug 31 '18 at 8:57
  • I'd extend this to include making sure you understand what the company is expecting for their money. There's a reasonable chance the company is expecting OP to complete five days worth of work in only four days. If that's the case, OP could be setting themselves up for failure because consistently delivering "only" four days worth of work per week is eventually going to get them fired or laid off. – aleppke Aug 31 '18 at 17:48
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    Strongly disagree. If they believed he was negotiating less time at the same pay, the contract makes perfect sense. By making them aware that he would accept less money for the same work, he is severely weakening his standing in any future negotiations. @Lucky, you have a signed contract. If everyone is happy then nothing need be done. If management is unhappy, then it makes sense to reopen negotiations. – DoubleD Aug 31 '18 at 19:06
26

You asked if you could work less time after the initial offer was made.

You made no mention of earning less money at that point.

The company agreed to allow you to work for less time.

The company made no mention of you earning less money at that point.

The company sent you a contract with X earnings for X hours of work.

You reviewed and signed that contract ( thus accepting X earnings for X hours of work ).

You should have brought up the "issue" BEFORE signing the contract. Based on the actions of the company leading up to and presenting the contract, I don't think this was a mistake.

  • 4
    +1 for this for mentioning that the issue should have been brought up BEFORE signing the contract. – Tom Aug 30 '18 at 17:47
19

I agree with all the other answers that say the contract is what matters, how you got there is subject to interpretation, and you are absolutely not dishonest in acting out a contract that was signed by both parties.

I want to add one more angle:

The other side of your contract is not a school boy. It is a company, with an HR and possibly a legal department. By law, expectations on them to get things right are much higher than on a regular person. Because they have the resources and expertise to make sure that they get things right.

Most likely, the contract you received is not a mistake. There may have been a misunderstanding during negotiations to your advantage, i.e. they thinking that your counter-offer is 4 days for the same amount of salary. In any halfway competent company, it is highly unlikely that they make a mistake in something as vital as an employees salary.

So if it turns out that it was a mistake, then the egg is fully in their face and not in yours. You should not admit a mistake. If someone comes to you saying "oops..." you should stand firm and say that during negotiation it was agreed that you would work 4 days and it was agree that you would work for this salary. No mention was made of reduced pay.

With the signed contract on your side, this has excellent chances to be held up even in a court of law. (IANAL, but I have legal training in this specific area).


If they threaten to fire you, you can offer a compromise, say meeting in the middle, without losing face and without admitting to any wrongdoing. And you would be perfectly right in doing so, because you in fact did not do anything wrong.

  • Mistakes happen, and particularly in this case the HR person that wrote the contract is no longer in the company... They won't threaten to fire without a valid reason and currently they have none. – CPHPython Aug 31 '18 at 9:49
  • 1
    Of course mistakes happen. But the point is that they should not and from a company you can expect that they don't. If you and I talk over a beer, we can both say the next day "ah, that. I was wrong, didn't mean it." and that's ok. If a company signs a contract, they can't. If it was a mistake, it was their mistake and they can be expected to eat it up. In legal terms: Once you sign the contract, that is your documented will. – Tom Aug 31 '18 at 10:23
  • I just tried to point out that the HR person left shortly after the contract was signed... This could indicate that this person was not paying much attention to the work, or maybe, just maybe, fired or preparing his/her way out with a bang (with a slight "misunderstanding" an employee was made happier :). Again, the company has no valid reason to fire the employee, the most they can do is a salary revision and approach the employee in those terms. – CPHPython Aug 31 '18 at 11:13
  • My reading is that the HR person was a freelancer or similar. He probably got a commission on bringing this person into the company and didn't care much for the salary as long as it was under his target value. – Tom Aug 31 '18 at 12:34
  • Depending on the jurisdiction, if they threaten to fire threaten to sue them for unfair dismissal... – Persistence Aug 31 '18 at 14:38
11

Here's a salary negotiation story:

Employer offered 200k, he countered 300k. Employer spoke to management for 10 minutes, then agreed. When signing the contract, the employee found out he was thinking in a different currency and pay period than the employer, and ended up getting paid over 10 times what he expected (employee was thinking Indian currency per month, the employer was thinking Euro / year).

Bottom line. It really doesn't matter what people's thoughts were. The contract is what mattered. The employer himself signed their end of the contract. There are no mistakes here.

  • 1
    The rest of the story: the employer's story reached higher management ears and the manager/HR responsible for the contract was fired. – CPHPython Aug 31 '18 at 9:45
  • 2
    @CPHPython unlikely. Hiring someone, even if it exceeds budget, is never an offense by itself. Strictly speaking, the OP was simply hired. The fact that he thought it is suppose to be for a lower wage is irrelevant. The contract was not fabricated. There was no deception. The employer knows, full well, with full clarity, what the signed contract's annual salary was, as with my story. – Nelson Aug 31 '18 at 10:10
  • I agree - no deception in your story, but a misunderstanding on the currency may have cost the company 100k+ in that single employee. If the HR person just made sure they were talking about yuan, he could have written his salary even much lower than 200k€. A single non-revealing question could have made that clear: e.g. "would that be according to what you expected in your country?" – CPHPython Aug 31 '18 at 11:25
  • @Nelson even if there is no deception involved from either party and it is not an offense according to the law they can still fire the HR person or manager for being incompetent in their role. – mathreadler Sep 1 '18 at 6:18
  • There's no incompetence involved. It's not like they hired a useless person. The company knew what the contract means exactly as it is written, and they approved it. There're far worse cases of actually useless hires due to nepotism. – Nelson Sep 2 '18 at 7:39
6

IMHO, the problem exists only in your opinion. On paper, in the contract, and all the negotiations, as per your description, there were nether a mention of diminished salary for lower hours.

So, unwittingly, i guess, you have negotiated better term than you thought.

But it DOESN`T make your dishonest in ANY way.

  • 5
    +1. There is no evidence that anyone made any mistake. They said a number. OP asked for fewer days. They agreed. They gave OP a contract for fewer days at the number. I see no reason to do anything about it. – Nathan Hinchey Aug 30 '18 at 18:34
2

If you are concerned that anyone ever brings your contract into question then faithfully respond:

Yes, the negotiation ended with me working 4 days (32 hours) a week at £26000. Is there an issue?


The difference between this and a payroll hiccup is that a payroll hiccup is usually an unusual event which occurred:

Hey guys, I was over/underpaid by £xyz this pay period. Can we look into this?

Whereas your event was the agreed-upon arrangement before beginning work.

Congratulations on the negotiations!

1

The money is yours. Someone made a mistake, chances are nobody will admit to it because nobody wants to look like a fool. And it’s not their money, it doesn’t come out of their pocket.

I would recommend that you do the very best job you can, so when the truth comes out eventually, your manager can say that it was a mistake, but you actually deserved the money for your good work.

Your manager probably doesn’t know about it but just gave HR instructions and assumed they would be followed. A year from now when raises are discussed, that is probably the first time he finds out. So at that point you want to look good in his books. Don’t expect a raise :-)

  • 6
    Doesn`t seem to be a mistake. OP is up and up – Strader Aug 30 '18 at 17:14
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    No-one made a mistake, just there was a small misunderstanding during the contract negotiations that resulted in a better conditions than OP expected. The company accepted the conditions signed in the contract believing that's what the OP wanted to achieve. – Ister Aug 31 '18 at 7:55
-2

IMO depends on how much that extra £5200 per year means to you. If it means enough to you that you'd be OK with some HR person figuring out what happened and that perhaps reflecting poorly in your future at this company, then I wouldn't tell anyone. However, be prepared that, if someone does find this out, they may renegotiate your salary, and you may be looked on poorly for future HR issues.

The other option is to be honest and mention this to HR. The downside to this is that they will definitely find out (because you're telling them), and they are more likely to want to renegotiate your salary. The advantage is you come out looking like you care more about the company than yourself, which is an advantage in potential future HR interactions. It's also possible that you mention it to them, they say "oh, but we already signed the contract, it's all good" and then you get to have your cake and eat it too, as the saying goes; you look like the good guy for being honest and you also keep the extra money.

As for clawing back the salary you have already earned, that's probably not legal (IANAL), because it's in the contract as it stands.

  • 13
    There's no dishonesty in accepting an offered contract. Presumably the company is capable of writing a contract they like. I'm not saying Lucky shouldn't bring it up, but it isn't a matter of honesty. – David Thornley Aug 30 '18 at 15:20
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    To add to this, the only indication of dishonesty from Lucky is their assumption that their interpretation of the discussion was the correct one and the company was in error. It's quite possible that the company representatives knew what they were doing and Lucky is the one in error. – Dancrumb Aug 30 '18 at 22:10
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    @Dancrumb exactly, this could all well be the OP's judgment mistake of the interview's outcome! P.S.: I honestly thought you were mentioning the OP as Lucky on purpose (i.e. the lucky winner, but that's actually his nickname x) – CPHPython Aug 31 '18 at 12:25

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