A verbal offer is withdrawn by the school

13th January 2014 at 00:00

A verbal offer is withdrawn by the school



The Head where I work as regular supply told me in March that a teacher was trying to get early retirement and said that I would be able to have a permanent job once her retirement had gone through.  I’ve heard that the teacher IS leaving, but the Head has said nothing to me.  Isn’t a verbal job offer binding?


Yes, if you are offered a job verbally, and you accept it, you enter into a legally binding agreement with your prospective employer.   

This means that when they ring you up on a Tuesday evening to offer you the job, and you accept it, you cannot then go to another interview on Thursday, get offered and accept that, then turn round and reject the offer that you accepted on Tuesday evening. 


The offer, once formally made and accepted, even if only verbally, is binding on both parties.


See the article  Two interviews and a dilemma


This is the essence of a contract, even if there is nothing in writing, and in law both of you are bound by it.  But it is a little more complicated than that, as the terms of employment have to be established when the offer is made, among other things, for it to be a formal offer.

And, of course, you come upon a big problem: the main feature of a verbal offer is that often there is no witness, and no proof of the offer and the conditions,  which is why it is usually followed up by a written exchanging confirming both the offer and its acceptance.  The school rings you up, then follows up with an offer letter.  You reply in writing, accepting it.  Done and dusted.


I am wondering is if this conversation with the Head really was an offer. 


Did you get given details of the salary, the position, the starting date?  Did she say: “I am offering you a full-time permanent post as a teacher of KS2 from 1st September 2014, subject to Barbara retiring on 31 August. I will pay you on point M3 of the school's salary scale as set out in our Pay Policy”   


That would be an offer that was binding, although you’d be hard pressed to prove it.  Was there a follow-up letter or e-mail to confirm this offer in writing?  Verbal offers are followed up by a written offer, so that each party is clear about what was offered. 


If the “offer” wasn’t as specific as that, and if there wasn’t a follow-up written  confirmation, it sounds more like a conversation: “If Barbara gets early retirement on health grounds, there will be a permanent post available”.


In my mind, from what you are telling me there is serious doubt whether a definite verbal offer was actually made.   And even if it were, there is no proof of it, as they didn’t write to confirm their offer and you didn’t write to confirm your acceptance.


I suggest that you now write to the Head, remind her of your conversation about a permanent post becoming available following early retirement, and say that you are wondering what the situation is, as you are hoping to apply.  Don’t say that you believe an offer was made to you (after all, you cannot prove it), as that could annoy her, and you want her to feel positive about you. 


And my advice to anyone else in this situation, or in fact, any situation where a very important matter is discussed in a conversation, is to write afterwards to confirm what was said.  If the other person doesn’t agree, then they have a chance to come back to you straight away, so you aren’t being lulled under a misapprehension.  Just something simple:


Confirm in writing every important conversation that you have.


I am writing to confirm our conversation yesterday when you offered me, and I accepted, a post as a full-time permanent teacher of KS2 on the school's salary point M3 from 1st September 2014, subject to Barbara Smith retiring on 31 August. 

You said that you expected to have confirmation of her retirement by 31 May at the latest. I would be grateful if you could let me know as soon as you do have confirmation either way, as I shall need to apply for other posts if this offer cannot be confirmed because she is not retiring.


You then take two copies along to the school secretary, tell her that it’s an important letter, so you would like her just to write Received and sign and date the second copy, for your records.

If you have got hold of the wrong end of the stick, then the Head will get back to you sharpish to say so.


Best wishes