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I told a company that gave me an offer that i could start at the specified commencement date but nothing was put in writing, no contracts signed (Being a contract role - they asked for payroll company details etc). But i'm currently waiting on another offer, which i'm 90% sure of getting in the next couple of days.

IF i do manage to get the second offer, would there be any problems if i were to decline the first offer? What would be the best way to talk to them in that case?

EDIT: No deadline was specified by the first company when they told me of the offer. But they did ask for a commencement date and if that was ok with me, to which i said it would be fine.

  • It would be helpful to know if they set a deadline for you to accept their offer. Would you please edit your question accordingly? – prockel Aug 29 '14 at 7:27
  • @prockel No deadline was specified. They had just told me about the commencement date, and asked for the payroll company details etc. – Jay Aug 29 '14 at 7:45
  • Which country? It might matter. – NotMe Aug 29 '14 at 22:57
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The first company gave you a verbal offer, which is nothing more than that. You told them that you are available at their preferred commencement date. This is just an information, which was valid at the moment you gave it to them (and still is). They know that you could be hired and start at this date.

This does not guarantee that you actually will accept that offer (and they know that). If you get a better opportunity soon, there is no problem in declining the first offer.

In this case you should however call the first company and tell them that you would have really liked to work for them, but that you got another offer which was even a better fit for you (or more convenient for you). Therefore you would like to thank them for their offer, but unfortunately decided to decline it.

EDIT (due to comments from the OP): If you are not sure about having verbally accepted the offer or not, it is a good idea to call the company and ask them about their understanding regarding the status of the offer. You might wait until you have got the offer from the other company, if you think you will get this in the next one or two days. If the first company tells you they expect you to start working on the date you discussed with them, you might want to clarify that there was a misunderstanding, and that you understood it merely as a question whether you would be available at that date.

  • Thanks! I was just concerned if simply saying that i would be available at the commencement date would constitute a legally binding agreement – Jay Aug 29 '14 at 8:21
  • If you told them that you accept the offer, it could be a binding agreement (depending on your local laws). But without a written contract, the company would certainly not try to force you to work for them. – prockel Aug 29 '14 at 8:28
  • Hmm, well when they told me about the offer i just said "That's Great" or "great news". Not sure what else i could have said then. – Jay Aug 29 '14 at 8:58
  • @Jay Please see my updated answer – prockel Aug 29 '14 at 9:22
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An oral contract is worth the paper it is written on.

When the company made you a verbal offer and you agreed to it, you created an oral contract. Generally speaking, they do not hold up in court except under rarified circumstances.

This is because during the contract performance, the conditions of the performance must be well understood and not ambiguous. When an agreement is written down, it is much less ambiguous than when it is verbal and the only record of it is in your memory. In this case, both you and this company agreed that you would work for them. Were any of these discussed and agreed to:

  1. When would work would start?
  2. What was your rate/salary?
  3. What kind of health insurance and other benefits would be available to you?
  4. What hours would you be working?

All of these items are important for the performance of your work and are part of a new employee offer and packet. If you did not know them, then there is too much unknown information for you to have any expectation that you'd be able to perform properly under your agreement.

In short, the verbal offer doesn't count unless it is very soon followed up with a written offer.

Good Luck!

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