Colleges which backtrack on early retirement deals would find themselves in court, the lecturers' union NATFHE warned this week.
Union leaders are concerned that some colleges could stop some staff retiring early under the Government's proposed crackdown - even though agreement has already been reached.
General secretary John Akker said the union had obtained counsel's opinion which indicated that it was illegal to renege on early retirement agreements.
The union's legal advice suggests that if an employer makes a firm and unqualified offer of early retirement which is accepted by the employee and then reneges because it cannot fund the deal, that could leave the way open for a breach of contract action.
And he warned the union could sue if colleges went ahead and broke agreements.
He said: "There are quite a lot of colleges which have come to our attention who have made offers in advance of the Government announcing their proposals. Obviously we hope the colleges will see sense." Union leaders have already indicated their opposition to any move towards a private pension scheme for the FE sector in the wake of proposals from the Association of Colleges to float a separate superannuation scheme for colleges.
Last week, the Government was forced to modify its clampdown on early retirement after legal action by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. The Department for Education and Employment withdrew forms asking employers to give details of all early retirements granted after October 22.