Say you've been given a verbal offer, and the company takes a few days to draw up the contract. When receiving the contract, you decide not to accept the offer. Can the company demand to be recompensated for the work they did?

  • 4
    Is this a situation you're facing?
    – rath
    Dec 18, 2018 at 11:34
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    I agree with @kasperd. I've never heard of this in my 30+ years as a software developer. In any case, almost all employment contracts are boiler plate to which the specifics are added (name, start date, salary, etc) - the costs involved are very small. If this is not a hypothetical question, and they do actually invoice you for it, send them a return invoice for your time at £250/ph.
    – Justin
    Dec 18, 2018 at 12:41
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    Has the company threatened to take action if you don't sign? I think you may be worrying about a problem that doesn't exist. Dec 18, 2018 at 13:33
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    Sounds like one of the few times where "a verbal contract is worth the paper it's written on" actually works in the employee's favour, to me.
    – Steve-O
    Dec 18, 2018 at 13:52
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    Say you don't get an offer. Can you be compensated for you interview time?
    – paparazzo
    Dec 18, 2018 at 14:31

4 Answers 4


The only sort of "company" I've ever heard of which does this sort of thing is slimy "recruiters". Typically there is no job, never was a job, and their business model is to pretend to work for you looking for a job while actually only billing you.

This kind of behavior is part of a con game.

"We have a job for you... but you need to pay us for services rendered... oops, the client went with someone else. Don't worry, we have this other great job lined up, just give us some more money".


TL;DR: No.


A company cannot fine you. A fine is an mount of money you are ordered by the court to pay or face legal penalty. You must pay fines, must in the RFC 2119 sense.

A company is not a court of law, therefore a company cannot issue fines. The worst any company can do (that is any company) is send you a mean letter that says pay us or else. Even if you get to the or else part and get the repo man at your door, you can just refuse to open the door. Unless ordered to do so by a court of law. See, here comes must again.

The company can demand anything they want. Here I recommend Philip Kendall's approach (from a comment):

They can demand that you stand on your head and sing "Humpty Dumpty". You can treat that request with similar contempt.

Companies do not send fines. Companies send mean letters. Companies send invoices. Depending on your prior agreements with them, some should make you worry, others are useful when you have run out of toilet paper.

A company can enter into contract with you that you will either accept the employment contract (that you haven't seen yet) or agree to pay them money. I can't think of a scenario where agreeing to such a prenup would be to your advantage, or that it would happen without you realizing. I also believe that signing such a prenup would weaken the actual employment contract, since it can be argued that you didn't enter into it freely, but under the fear of monetary penalty.

  • Some companies issue fines? For example, you get caught taking a train without paying for a ticket. In the UK you may get fined by the train company I believe, and I guess there's a legal mechanism that allows that to take place. I wonder if there's a way for OP's hocus pocus company to do the same.
    – OmarL
    Dec 18, 2018 at 16:19
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    @Wilson That's part of the T&Cs of travelling on the train which you agree to by getting on the train. At least in the UK, a company would have great difficulty enforcing T&Cs for an interview without you signing a bit of paper Dec 18, 2018 at 16:49
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    @Wilson Adding to what Philip said, even then they don't call it a fine, it's a "penalty fare". The distinction is important because their lawyers know what they can and cannot say.
    – rath
    Dec 18, 2018 at 16:59

Can the company demand to be recompensated for the work they did?


Unless you have a contractual agreement (either verbal or signed) before hand that if you do not accept the offer, that they have to be compensated for their efforts. If no such agreement exists, then legally they cannot get anything from you.

My advice: do not sign or acknowledge anything. Simply ignore them as they may try to trap you by you replying or signing something that says you promise to pay them back.


A company that would expend a large sum of money getting ready for a new employee before getting a signed contract is not acting in their own best interest.

If that written contract contains even one item not mentioned in the verbal offer, then it is a different offer and you would be expected to reevaluate your enthusiasm for that position. This would also mean that they would have had to tell you in the verbal offer if you accept this verbal offer then you are responsible for pre-employment expenses to include A,B and C.

That being said, if they want to pressure you to pay for these expenses they can always try. Maybe they get some people in your situation to agree to join the company when threatened this way, but it is likely that the employee will be looking to get out of the job as soon as they can.

  • If the candidate after seeing the contract has decided to say no, and if the company then threaten the candidate, then that's not a reason for the candidate to say yes, rather it's one more reason for the candidate to say no. I'd like to think no candidate would be stupid enough to feel threatened into signing an unacceptable contract in this way. I mean if the company feel they can pull that kind of stunt without a contract in place, what do they think they can do once the candidate has signed a contract already containing unreasonable terms.
    – kasperd
    Dec 18, 2018 at 11:54

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