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.

  • A physical copy is always a better option, specially for authenticity.
    – Atur
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 13:15
  • @atur why do you say that ? Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 13:27
  • I am assuming that on email they would atleast be providing digitally signed document. What I have noticed is in India is that in future if you join another organization, then at times they like the original offer/joining letter etc.
    – Atur
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 13:31
  • This is the norm in the UK an offer letter which is accepted either verbaly or in writing.
    – Pepone
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:00
  • 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
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


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.

  • thanks, this confirms what the company said, and what the UK gov website says. Paperless office ftw. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:03
  • 2
    One caveat: the lawyer I spoke to was American. Things may be different in the UK (or not), I don't know. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:46
  • 3
    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. Commented Jul 25, 2014 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.

  • 6
    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. Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:05
  • 4
    Your choice. I don't ask lawyers for internet advice; I don't ask the Internet for legal advice.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 15:07
  • If only the lawyers used the internet :(
    – bbozo
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 17:48

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.


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.

  • In the UK you always have a contract of employment even if its a verbal one - I seem to recall you are meant to get a written contract with 6 weeks of joining
    – Pepone
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 14:58

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