Is a verbal employment agreement legally binding?

Question Details: An employer has offered me a job over the summer (I am a student), agreeing on a pay rate, hours and a start and finish date. No contract was signed, but was due to be signed on my first day, as it was all agreed upon via email. Two days before I was due to start, they informed me that they had found someone more suitable for the position, and they did not want me as an employee. I had already made significant arrangements to allow me to hold this job. Can I claim that the verbal agreement they made with me is legally binding?

Filed under Employment Law | 17529 View(s)

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Yes, a verbal or oral employment agreement is binding. An employer has an obligation under the Employment Relations Act to give you a written agreement, but that does not stop an oral agreement being binding in the meantime, so long as the terms of the agreement are clear and you can show that you and your employer intended to be bound by the agreement.

It is often hard to prove that an employer and intending employee had actually reached an agreement, rather than had just been discussing a possible agreement. However, if your emails show that your intended employer actually offered you the job, and you accepted, then you will have a good case to show that you have a binding agreement. That means that you can bring a personal grievance as an employee intending to work.

You may also be able to say that you have a written agreement, anyway. A clear exchange of emails that set out the terms of your intended employment might be treated as a written agreement, even though it was not actually signed. What really matters are that the terms of your agreement are clear, and that they offered and you accepted.

Remember that there is a 90 day time limit for raising a personal grievance. Click here to read more about personal grievances: www.communitylaw.org.nz

Answered 12 Nov 2012. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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