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Several months ago I accepted a job offer that involved relocating abroad based on the agreement that I would get a defined salary raise after the first three months of work. I asked to have this specified on the contract. However the recruiter said that they couldn't adjust the contract (it was basically a template that they used the same for everyone) and that I would get an annex closer to the 3rd month. They said (via email) that there was no need to worry as the entire negotiation of the salary was done by email. Without that agreement I wouldn't have relocated abroad, and the company is aware of that.

Now the head of the department doesn't want to give me the raise they promised because the company isn't doing well. It is true that the company has taken some cost-cutting measures recently. However they are still planning on incurring costs such as flying hundreds of employees from abroad to have a Christmas party, buying new tools for the department (that weren't planned in the budget when I joined the company), etc.

I've been explicitly told by my supervisor that everybody in my department is very happy with me (including the head of the department) and that they don't want me to leave.

Considering that the company is still incurring non strictly required costs (such as acquiring tools for the department that weren't planned in the budget when my agreement was made), what can I do for them to stay true to their agreement?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Oct 29 '19 at 3:13
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    See my answer here please, workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/115409/… – Rui F Ribeiro Oct 29 '19 at 3:14
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    Was your promise of raise explictly connected to relocation OR was this raise a reimbursment for relocation? In Polish labour law those things are two different things. How it was presented to you? – SZCZERZO KŁY Oct 29 '19 at 14:04
  • @Logan Unfortunately, if it didn't make it into the contract, it wasn't negotiated successfully. – employee-X Oct 31 '19 at 16:06

12 Answers 12

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Short Answer

Your employer can not be trusted and you've lost most of your leverage now that you've already moved abroad and settled in.

The only way to rectify this situation is to find yourself a new employer.

Longer Answer

I asked to have this specified on the contract. However the recruiter said that they couldn't adjust the contract (it was basically a template that they used the same for everyone) and that I would get an annex closer to the 3rd month.

You could have modified the contract yourself and sent them the new copy for their review.

When they said "No, we can't. We can't accept your version of the contract."

You should have walked away. That's what you're supposed to do when an employer is being inflexible and the written terms left on the table are not good enough for you on their own.

A potential employer doesn't magically produce an annex to a contract and doesn't magically become more flexible after three months. I'd say 99.9% won't honor that kind of promise, especially if they made a point of refusing to put that promise into the contract in the first place.

Certainly, the next time this happens, don't accuse such a person of lying to you. But do verbalize your fears. "What happens if you get hit by a bus tomorrow? Who will honor the promise you've made?"

"Hopefully, that won't happen." He'll say.

"What if the company gets acquired? Or what if your wife wins the lottery? How will you be able to fight for me if you're not here, or are not in charge anymore?"

"What if in three months, I don't get the raise you promised me? Can the company pay for my plane ticket and my moving expenses to return me back home? If I end up breaking my lease, can the company pay for that?" I realize this line of questioning borders on the absurd, but sometimes, there is no better way to flesh out the sheer absurdity or the deception of not wanting to put down the raise in writing in the first place.

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    Any reasonable recruiter would be happy to oblige to contract changes for such things. I had a job where the "termination by either party" clause didn't stipulate a timeframe (i.e. zero notice) and I requested changes to specify a timeline. The contract was for 6 months and joined a team of 5 other people at the same time. Three months later we were all let go due to negotiations between that company and another. I got to stay on an additional 2 weeks (another guy was kept around permanently, afaik). – Draco18s no longer trusts SE Oct 28 '19 at 21:23
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    They should've stayed true to their word, and they aren't trustworthy. But for the initial changes to the contract, I think there is many companies where that is (also) not gonna fly. You are indeed welcome to walk away before signing, but you then exclude a large group of companies where you otherwise may have found satisfactory employment. Their lack of flexibility comes from their Legal (or lack thereof) not wanting to deal with these exceptions (both the initial diligence of these and ongoing maintenance). They're not trustworthy, but it's unfair to drag the inflexibility into it. – Sander Verhagen Oct 29 '19 at 5:30
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    @SanderVerhagen, That's a fair criticism. I can't argue with that. When I get a chance, I'll try to refine my answer to take your comments into account. – Stephan Branczyk Oct 29 '19 at 6:02
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    It's worth mentioning that in many jurisdictions an email conversation and agreement is a legally binding contract (in addition to any contract you might have signed) and a promised raise on email is as legally binding. That said they can promise you a raise in contract and still not give you the raise and the implications of breaching the contract after 3 months are usually "nothing" in most contracts I have seen. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 29 '19 at 12:34
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    I don't know about Poland, but in all my German contracts, there was an explicit paragraph that says something like "Company and Employee have no additional agreements outside this contract - be it verbal or written." or if additional agreements existed, they were explicitly named and had to be in written form, otherwise would be void. So, in those cases, a promised raise in email would have had to be mentioned in the contract in order to be legally binding. – Fildor Oct 29 '19 at 13:15
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Polish your CV and start applying and next time do not sign a contract if you're not happy with it.

And if you hear the next time that the contract is a template and cannot be modified to include a small paragraph...just run away.

Sorry to say it like that.

In the end this is a business relationship and the other side seems to be fine with lying a potential future employee just to get them on the boat. You took the bait and (surprise surprise) now everybody is happy with you and they don't want you to leave.

From my point of view the mutual trust that's the base for any relationship (business or not) is shattered.

You can continue with this company if you want but gaining back your trust in them is going to be difficult if not impossible. Even if you come with an ultimatum and they comply, this is usually a short term fix. In the future you will be remembered as "that guy" and getting another raise will not be easy.

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    I agree with this, but would also add that this dispute should not be spoken of to future employers. Simply state that the company was not as good of a fit as was previously thought to be. – Blerg Oct 29 '19 at 0:44
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It's a widely believed fiction that "If it's not in the signed written contract then it can't be enforced". But a good lawyer will tell you that a verbal or unsigned contract is just as valid as a signed written agreement. It's just a case of proving what was agreed.

If, as you say, you have copies of emails in which you were promised the raise, showing that you accepted the contract on that basis, you may well be able to get your raise. You might start by showing the company those emails, to prove that they did commit to giving you a raise. In any case it would be worth talking to a lawyer about it. Get one in the jurisdiction the contract was signed in. Show her all the relevant emails - and while you are about it take a copy of all your emails and other documents on the subject and keep them where you can get them if you were suddenly denied access to your work computer.

It's probably best to not let the company know you are consulting a lawyer until you have established whether you have a case or not, since involving lawyers is an escalation of the dispute. And also exhaust all your other possibilities of negotiation before threatening legal action. But if you do, then simply letting the company know you have a lawyer involved can sometimes cause them to start being reasonable. And having an alternative job offer is only going to make life better for you.

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    This approach could also backfire regarding the relationship with your employer. The action that you took would be recorded and could influence decisions (promotion leading to contractual change, etc.) in future. I'm just being devil's advocate here but you should bear it in mind. – The Betpet Oct 29 '19 at 11:52
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    @TheBetpet On the other hand, in many jurisdictions, taking adverse action against you on that basis would itself be illegal and would be grounds for yet another case against the company. – reirab Oct 29 '19 at 16:55
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    @TheBetpet It think it's already established that the employer is not trustworthy and the best course of action is to ditch them eventually. However, projecting image of a person that gets the job (of enforcing contract here) done also has positive aspects on this relationship and can actually made you more appreciated. – Agent_L Oct 30 '19 at 7:05
  • @reirab It's a fair point but something being illegal and something not being done are two different things. It could easily skew the manager's objectivity and make them search harder for legitimate reasons to turn you down however weak or dubious those reasons are. – The Betpet Oct 30 '19 at 11:58
  • This is not what a lawyer (good or bad) will tell you. – Strawberry Oct 30 '19 at 13:00
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There's an old saying...

"A verbal agreement is worth the paper it's written on"

Since you don't have it in writing, you are in a very weak position, doubly so being in a different country. Going forward, get EVERYTHING in writing.

As for the raise you've been promised, you are pretty much out of luck unless you get an offer for more money from a different company.

When (and if) that is the case, walk in and give one final demand for the increase (do not mention the offer on the table) if they say no, then say yes to the new employer and move on.

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    It's not in the contract, but it seems that the raise was agreed to in writing via email. The OP has more than a verbal agreement. – Nuclear Wang Oct 28 '19 at 15:48
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    Even with an email, if it's not in the contract, the author will have a hard time trying to force the company to honor it. The author would likely have to take the company to court, in order to show the contracted was amended, and a good faith assuption (the adjusted salary would be honored) was made by the author – Donald Oct 28 '19 at 16:22
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    @Donald Even if it was in the contract, the company could choose to not honor it, in which case the OP would still wind up in court... not really seeing much difference here, if it's a clearly defined written agreement. The OP can't force the company to do anything, regardless of whether it's in the contract or not. – Nuclear Wang Oct 28 '19 at 18:13
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    @RichardU So either that email exchange really did occur and there is an actual written agreement between the agency and the company, or the agency committed fraud by claiming they had a written agreement when they did not. One way or another, there is more than a verbal agreement here - the OP has either a written agreement for the raise, or a written notification that such an agreement exists. – Nuclear Wang Oct 28 '19 at 18:17
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    Thank you for sharing your points of view. To clarify: there was no agency or middle man involved. The entire agreement was negotiated via email between me and an HR of the company. – Logan Oct 28 '19 at 18:50
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You're not in a great position here: the company's promises are untrustworthy, and they've clearly concluded that they can screw you over and you won't quit over it.

So to have any leverage, you have to prove them wrong, meaning show them that you have a viable alternative (BATNA - Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) -- and that means having an offer on the table from another company. Whether or not this is possible in your new country given your field of work, visa sponsorship etc is something only you can answer.

Once you do have that offer in hand, you can credibly state "I will need that promised raise, or I'll quit and go work elsewhere", and then you'll likely get a counteroffer. I'd still think long and hard about whether you want to take it, since you've now dared to be "disloyal" and that is likely to jeopardize any future growth at the company.

The other option would be to lawyer up and (threaten to) take them to court with the emails as evidence, but this sounds expensive, time-consuming and also likely to see you disposed of at the earlier opportunity. A free first consultation with an employment lawyer still wouldn't hurt though.

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    'BATNA'? I haven't come across that one. – Time4Tea Oct 28 '19 at 15:57
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    @Time4Tea Google is your friend. It's your fallback if negotiations fall through (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement). It's important to keep in mind, since it can play a huge factor in negotiations. It's why someone buying a car actually has a lot of the power (even if they don't realize it) - their BATNA is buying a car from a different dealership; the dealer's BATNA is simply losing the sale. – Kevin Oct 28 '19 at 16:13
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    This may work as an ego boost, but the trust of the employee to the company is lost. Doing this will lose the trust the company has towards the employee, which is a short distance to losing the job. Offering an ultimatum is never a good idea. It's almost always better to just act on the "or else", since negotiations aren't likely to work at the point of needing an ultimatum. – computercarguy Oct 28 '19 at 18:20
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    I didn't know what BATNA was either, and we shouldn't need to Google acronyms to understand the whole answer. Will you edit in what it stands for? Or maybe just get rid of it, I'm not sure it adds anything, as the bold statement explains it well on its own. – Kat Oct 28 '19 at 18:23
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    ... na na na na na na na na na na na na BATNA! – T. Sar Oct 29 '19 at 19:57
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Others already told you to walk away from this job, which is the right, but not the practical thing to do. If I understand correctly, you just relocated and unless you can find a new job in the same place, relocating twice in such a short row isn't really going to fly.

So in that situation, you should give them a second chance to do the right thing.

Dig out the documentation that you have, those e-mails, and put them together into an easily digested format. That typically means to copy out the vital sentences and attach the entire mails at the end. You want to point out to them that there was an agreement and an explicit promise made.

Next, check your contract. Especially check for the clause that says that anything needs to be in writing or that any additional agreements are null and void or similiar. Most employment contracts have this clause, you want to know if yours does.

If it does, you are basically a beggar. You signed a contract that explicitly says the other agreement is worthless and now you want to hold them to it. You need to apply to their conscience and their honour.

If it doesn't, you might even have some legal ground to stand on and you can be more firm and insist that they make good on the agreement.

In either case, ask for a meeting with your boss and maybe whoever can actually make the decision in case your boss can't by himself. You want whatever agreement is made in that meeting not have to go "up the chain" and be shot down there. You want to leave with a solid solution and no possibility of surprises.

In that meeting, put your cards on the table as you did here - short, concise, to the point. The important points are: a) there was an agreement about this raise and b) your decision to accept the offer depended on that agreement, c) against your better judgement (you asked for it in writing) you relied on their honour and trustworthiness regarding that matter and are now bitterly disappointed and d) you asked for the meeting in order to find a solution to this issue.

You should indicate what kind of flexibility can be found on your side. Are you willing to accept a smaller raise than agreed? Or for the raise to be received later (say, another 3 months)? Or do you want the raise as agreed upon? All of these are valid positions and depend on your financial situation. Especially if you are not willing to negotiate anything, make that clear in the beginning so nobody wastes his time.

Know if you can afford to walk away from that meeting by handing over your resignation. If you can't, your position is much weaker as you have little to offer or threaten with. In that case, you would be polite and respectful and simply ask for what is yours, and if they stand their ground, you would have to fold because you don't have a hand.

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Now the head of the department doesn't want to give me the raise they promised because the company isn't doing well.

Does he work for the company that promised you the raise, or the one that would only provide a boilerplate template who (according to you) knew you wouldn't take the job without the promised 90-day increase?

If they are the ones that promised the raise, plan to leave or deal with it as-is.
I say that because companies/bosses who go back on promises usually continue to do that in the future.

If they did not promise the raise, you can show them the paperwork and explain that you acted in good faith expecting the raise and ask if they can do anything for you.
For example maybe a bonus instead of the raise - those may be treated differently by the accounting folks who are saying they aren't doing well (i.e. your boss who may not be able to get you a raise, may be able to get you a bonus).
It is easier to say no to someone that wants a raise than to someone that can show that they had reason to expect one.

Also you didn't specify how much money we are talking.
Was your expected raise 10%, 30% or 50%+ ?
This is personal opinion, but a 30+ percent increase is getting to the point where I don't trust that it will happen.

they are still planning on incurring costs such as flying hundreds of employees from abroad to have a Christmas party, buying new tools for the department (that weren't planned in the budget when I joined the company), etc.

It is hard for me to judge how much to weigh this. For example, the cost cutting may not extend to going back on a promise to fly everyone in for a holiday party because the tickets have already been booked, the venue is already booked, the hit to morale they imagine will happen if they don't do it, etc. Note that it is relevant.

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I would consider that the salary raise after the first three months of work to be part of the contract. It is a particularly weak position as it is not in the signed contract, and not even discussed with the company itself but the recruiter, but nevertheless, the OP clearly considered it part of the contract, and has documentation (from the recruiter) to back it. In fact, many contracts to explicitly state that they are the only relevant document and anything else that was offered should not be taken to be part of the contract.

Now, the refusal to the salary increase comes from the head of the department, but I think he may be the wrong person to approach. I think you should present a formal request to the HR department requesting, as agreed beforehand when you were contracted, the promised salary increase. The important part is that you

The usual caveat that "HR is not your friend" applies, their role is to protect the company, not you. But if the company did agree at one point that you would have such salary raise, they should make that you get the agreed raise, as not honoring it could be problematic to the company (even if the department head would like to cut costs differently).

Basically, I see them providing different answers:

  • No, the company never agreed to that. If, even after you then provide the given evidence, they claim that there was not such agreement (i.e. the recruiter lied to you), there is little you can do to get them honor what they -according to their version- didn't agree to [note it would strengthen your position if you also had a statement from the company itself (your department head?) in which it was acknowledged that they did offer that to you]. You might want to sue the recruiter, and attempt to e.g. recover the costs of relocating. YMMV if that's worth the effort.

  • Yes, you are owed this, and it is wrong not to give you that which is obviously what you expect. However, it may also become:

  • Yes, you are entitled to the raise for this last fourth month. By the way, here is your notice. We cannot expend so much on an employee.

  • Yes, but please understand us... I would consider it a bad signal, but they may attempt to reach an agreement not to give you the raise directly, and you may want to accept some kind of bargaining with them. Any agreement where they (implicitly) acknowledged that you were to have such raise would benefit you, minus whatever the terms actually say. It may be worth having the raise only after four months if you manage to get that in writing. If it was to be after 24 months, probably not. You may also accept some alternative, such as exchanging delaying getting the raise with getting an higher one (but be sure to get that properly!), or exchanging the raise with equity (assuming you consider it actually is a good deal).

In any case, you should be prepared for a negative answer that ends up with you looking for a job elsewhere.

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  • Thank you @Ángel. – Logan Oct 29 '19 at 11:33
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    The recruiter belongs to the company (there was no third party or middleman involved in the recruitment and negotiation process, just the HR from the company and I). – Logan Oct 29 '19 at 11:34
  • They want to offer a higer raise in a few months, but even if we sign it in a new contract I can't bring myself to trust them. They are ignoring their first written (in email) agreement. I can't trust they won't do the same again, even if it's in a signed contract – Logan Oct 29 '19 at 11:37
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Walk away. They did a bait-and-switch on you.

Get another offer and then give your advanced notice of resignation.

Then either the company will offer you a raise (only under duress, so you know what kind of people you are dealing with.)

Or they will dig their heels and let you go. If they offer you a raise make sure that it is now above what the new offer gives you (for you'd be trading a new offer for a counter-offer by the same disreputable people who pulled a bait-and-switch on you.)

However it plays, know that at some point you will have to walk away (even if they give you the raise after receiving your resignation.)

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    Good answer, I would recommend in this case not accepting the counter offer from current company (even if it's better!) – seventyeightist Oct 30 '19 at 19:23
  • It depends. It's all about business.If one cannot develop a healthy work relationship, then one should consider a purely transactional relationship till another opportunity arises. If the offer is substantially better (say 20+% better), I'd suggest to take it (but to be of the mind that a departure is inevitable and the environment might turn hostile.) Always be willing to be a mercenary if the money is right. The raise needs to be in writing, effective immediately, retroactive to the last paycheck, and observable from the next paycheck forward. Otherwise, no cigar :) – luis.espinal Oct 31 '19 at 15:55
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EDIT Please note this is from a US employment perspective where most employment is at will.

Do you have any reason you want them to honor the agreement, beyond it being right and being financially better? While those should be good reasons, the reality you have to consider is what happens beyond this issue. You know they're untrustworthy and forcing their hand will make you the troublemaker (in their eyes). Additionally, they're having financial trouble. Perhaps this is a good catalyst to jump the sinking ship?

My suggestion: play nice. Tell them you understand and perhaps when things improve it can be revisited. In the meantime, find another job. I'm guessing your relocation/visa status could add some hurdles--so it's another reason to not make waves where you are.

Once you find a new job, your next decision is whether you care about this reference. The professional, safe and likely "correct" answer is to give standard notice and leave on as good of terms as possible. You never know with whom you'll cross paths again. This is very likely your best option.

All that said, (and why I added a separate answer) you MIGHT consider the following. Give standard notice. Be the last one to leave on the day you give the notice. Take all of your personal items with you and leave your key on your desk. And never return. If they reach out to you, let them know that you were led to believe that statements were intended only to make the other party feel better in the moment and not to be honored.

There is good reason to consider this at best questionable and maybe even petty. But you uprooted your life with all intention of making it work until they reneged on an agreement that represents the primary reason people work. I can assure you that taking such a stand--ASSUMING IT IS A BRIDGE YOU CAN SAFELY BURN--will feel good year after year.

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    I don't think violating the contract is a good way to protest this. Remember, the company did not violate any contract. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 28 '19 at 17:35
  • @LightnessRaceswithMonica Good point. Updated to reflect location caveat. – SemiGeek Oct 28 '19 at 17:59
  • @LightnessRaceswithMonica Except they did. Not the "employment contract", perhaps, but there is a promise of a raise in writing. They violated that. Now, violating the employment contract in response to the company violating their other contract might not play well in court... – Auspex Oct 31 '19 at 14:06
  • @Auspex Some words in an email, offering some thing, is not a contract. That is why a crucial point here is that the OP did not perform sufficient due diligence, which directly results in them having fewer than desirable options. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 31 '19 at 14:09
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    @LightnessRaceswithMonica "Some words in an email, offering some thing, is not a contract." Oh yes they are. I'm not sure in which locality you currently reside, but in the US (and pretty much every country I've been), that constitutes an agreement, an addendum to a contract. Courts tend to see emails as electronic transcripts. Depending on the jurisdiction, even verbal agreements are enforceable if the claimant has a way to provide a preponderance of evidence to show the conversation took place. – luis.espinal Oct 31 '19 at 15:50
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No one else has said this so I will: see an employment lawyer. Depending on your jurisdiction you may have a case against your employer. If the case is strong enough the lawyer may work on contingency basis. You may very well be entitled to damages and those damages can be substantial.

Make copies of the emails that promise the raise after three months, and those citing your good remarks from your boss.

Make sure you get a good employment lawyer.

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Is this a question of principle or do you actually need the money originally offered. If your happy and can stay financially and your career is going the right way then stay. Whilst it would be great for them to honour their original offer, they cant or wont and there is acceptable evidence for their decision. You have relocated and I assume that that's gone well so overall your doing well and its a good fit with your company. Personally I would stay mid term to settle and plan any move well if needed, and your present company may in the meantime be able to do better and belatedly honour its agreements. Although not getting what was originally offered is a little disappointing, finding a good company that looks after you is more important and its worth earning a bit less to be happy.

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    I regret that I have but one downvote to give. – Studoku Oct 31 '19 at 13:27
  • @Studoku - thats very negative! – Andrew Day Nov 16 '19 at 13:18

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