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I accepted a job offer, but the School changed terms and conditions in its written offer

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by ucsa001, Jul 4, 2018.

  1. ucsa001

    ucsa001 New commenter

    Hello,

    After initially turning down a job offer in a Preparatory School, I reconsidered when a revised offer was made. This included a half-day off a week in lieu for working on Saturday mornings. This was all discussed over the phone. When I received the email confirming the agreed terms and conditions of the offer, there was no mention of the half-day off. I queried this, and the Head mentioned that, having consulted with another member of SLT, due to timetable constraints and having to consider fair distribution of workload across the staff, they reached the conclusion that they cannot give me the half-day off.

    Should this raise concerns about the reliability of the school's management?

    I think it does raise alarm bells, and part of me now wishes to withdraw my acceptance, especially as it involves relocating.

    Any advice would be most gratefully received.
     
  2. mm71

    mm71 Occasional commenter

    You have to be the judge of that. If it was me, I would be concerned by the changes and the fact that they didn't tell me first.
     
    Vince_Ulam, Pomza, tall tales and 8 others like this.
  3. mothorchid

    mothorchid Star commenter

    I'd be concerned. I can understand that at this late stage it might be awkward to re-jig a timetable, but perhaps they shold have contacted you to discuss it. And they might have said that this year it wasn't possible, but next year they'd accommodate the request. Then you could think it over and decide in a more informed way.
    But as I understand it, these prep schools can be run slightly "individually"...
     
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    I would be very concerned. If they are not reliable in what they say, what other things are they going to change and do? They cannot be trusted.
     
  5. BelleDuJour

    BelleDuJour Star commenter

    Alarm bells ringing very loud!
     
    Vince_Ulam, Pomza, tall tales and 8 others like this.
  6. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    There is always that risk when you accept a job in an independent school.

    If it was me I wouldn't touch it.
     
    Vince_Ulam, Pomza, tall tales and 6 others like this.
  7. Scintillant

    Scintillant Star commenter

    We are increasingly seeing that despite what people used to say on these forums, verbal acceptance of a contract is pretty worthless these days.

    Run away.
     
    Vince_Ulam, Pomza, tall tales and 2 others like this.
  8. sparkleghirl

    sparkleghirl Star commenter

    Under normal circumstances yes I'd say verbal acceptance blah blah blah.

    But I think in this case you're entitled to say "I'm sorry, that's not the terms I agreed to and therefore I cannot accept this contract." Since you had initially turned down this offer on these same terms, in your position I would feel they had deliberately manipulated and misled me.

    What you decide to do might depend on how easy it will be for you to get something else and how long you can afford to wait.
     
  9. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    As others have said, alarm bells are ringing.

    If having a half-day off is a 'red line' for you, or if you no longer trust them as employers, AND you can afford to turn down the job, I'd do so (pointing out you have only done this with regret because THEY have unilaterally changed the conditions of the job, with regret etc. etc.).
     
  10. peapicker

    peapicker Star commenter

    The contract between you was formed when the school made you an offer on particular (revised) terms and you accepted those terms. It does not matter that the agreement was made over the phone - the contract is still binding.

    Neither side may unilaterally vary the terms of the contract after it is formed - which is what the school is now doing.

    The school has advised you that it is intending not to honour one of the terms of the contract is formed with you. Whether the HT made a bad bargain with you, which has now upset other members of SLT, is immaterial. The Law generally does not interfere with agreements between contracting parties and does not protect a party from making a bad bargain (unless they were deliberately misled).

    Advising of the intention to breach the contract on the date on which it was due to commence, is known as 'anticipatory breach'. Whether you can now walk away from the contract, because the HT has decided to renage on the agreement to give you a half day off in lieu of Saturday mornings, depends whether this term would be considered to be a 'condition' or fundamental term, integral to the contract or a minor one, which is a nuisance but does not affect the whole contract very seriously. No-one here can advise you how the loss of the half day would be viewed, though my instinct is that it is fundamental to the contract, particularly because you made a point of asking about it and negotiating it. You have been deceived.

    Under such circumstances, I believe you are at liberty to walk away from the contract ('rescind' it - or treat it as having been torn up) because the school has given notice of its intention to repudiate it. However, this is informal information and not legal advice, so do not act on it without checking with your union first.
     
  11. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Like others I hear alarm bells.And as peakster points out
    However you have presumably accepted and it is a difficult one. You could certainly try spakleghirl's approach
    Oh and looking at 'other posts' it seems peapicker agrees.
     
  12. Oldfashioned

    Oldfashioned Senior commenter

    Walk away.

    Why would you work for anybody who is so free with your time? No half day, no teacher, simple.
     
  13. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    The usual 2 words. The second of which is "off".
     
  14. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    As one of those who does think you should stick to a verbal acceptance, this is clearly different. Acceptance was given subject to the half-day off. Without that, there is no contract. I would suggest going back and making it clear that your acceptance was subject to this, and see what comes back. Unless you decide that this makes the school too dodgy a proposition, in which case a firm 'thanks but no thanks' is needed.

    At least the Head acknowledges what was agreed. But I do wonder if the school is now in breach of a verbal contract, and you could sue for any consequential loss. Probably not worth it unless you union agrees, but it might give you a little fun at their expense.
     
  15. ucsa001

    ucsa001 New commenter

    My thinking too. Trust is important, particularly as I'd have a 450 mile move to do and would hate finding out the hard way that my gut instinct was right.
     
  16. ucsa001

    ucsa001 New commenter

    Thank you for such detailed information. It's very useful, and I guess I have to decide whether to treat it as a "minor" term. The trust has certainly been affected.
     
  17. peapicker

    peapicker Star commenter

    Far too much hassle, which the OP probably doesn't need. The school has not breached the contract yet. It has given notice of its intention to breach it by not performing the contract as agreed, from the date on which it is due to commence in September.

    The OP asked whether he could walk away, which has been answered. I believe this anticipatory breach is serious enough that he can. The alternative option is to affirm the contract by turning up to work on the appointed day, expecting to have a half-day off in lieu of Saturday working per the contract terms and then to sue the school for breach of contract, when they renage on the promise, claiming losses that were in the contemplation of the parties at the point at which the contract was made. So consequent loss of earnings; relocation; deposits; new school uniform / fees for children etc. Nothing that is too remote and could not have been anticipated at the point at which the contract was agreed, but anything that flows naturally from the breach.

    Personally, I would treat it as having had a lucky escape and walk away.
     
  18. peapicker

    peapicker Star commenter

    It would be a court, rather than you, who would determine the status of the term. As well as 'minor' ('warranties') and 'fundamental' terms ('conditions') there are also 'indeterminate' terms, which could be either, depending on the context. I would edge towards it being a condition: you already declined the first offer until this was renegotiated with the half day, so it became critical to your acceptance; you feel deceived, cheated, misled and trust has broken down.

    An indeterminate term, in contrast, might be something like a promise that accommodation would be redecorated for you, but you turn up to move in and find it hasn't been. (HT apologies and explains that decorator was taken ill but will do it over the next couple of weeks for you.) He offers an alternative for a couple of weeks and gives you a case of wine by way of an apologetic gesture. Irritating, but not sufficient to justify walking away from the contract, whereas if you found the accommodation was an undecorated tip and there was no suggestion that this would be rectified for you, it may well justify you walking away.
     
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  19. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    @ucsa001 if you have decided you don't want to work there I'd take a much simpler approach than suggested by some - if you send an 'I've swallowed a legal textbook' reply to the school you will likely get into difficulties if the school appoints a real lawyer to deal with it.

    It was a phone conversation. Simply treat the conversation you had with the head as not being an actual contractual offer but as an indication from the head of the offer they were minded to make to you, and your response as an indication that if you received that offer you would be minded to accept it. Now that you have received the offer it isn't what you were expecting and so you've decided not to accept it. So no contract exists and no contract has been breached. You aren't 'withdrawing your acceptance' because you never accepted it in the first place.

    Reply: "Dear Head, Thank for your email dated …. with the offer of employment as a teacher at XYZ school from 1st September 2018. Your offer is different from what I was expecting it to be as it does not allow me a half day off during week. I have therefore decided not to accept the offer and will not be taking up a post with you in September. Yours sincerely...". (Add something about 'Thank you taking the time to talk to me about the opportunities at XYZ school' or some such if you want.)

    If the head responds by saying you had already accepted the offer on the phone just politely say that the head must have misunderstood you, you were waiting for the written offer before deciding whether to accept it, you were just giving an indication of your likely reply.

    All the legal advice in the world on the law of contract may be of little use to you though if you have resigned your current job and need a new one in September to pay the bills....
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2018
  20. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    I imagine it is a case of the head being out of touch with the school.
    They want to appoint you, so said whatever popped in to their mind to try and secure your acceptance of the post. Probably they were harking back to the olden days when prep schools were full, money was plentiful and staff did get a half day off a week to compensate for Saturday mornings.
    Then they sort the contract out and the deputy (who actually has a clue about the day to day running of the school) points out that no one gets a half day off for doing Saturday mornings, and to do so for you would cause all kinds of bad feeling.

    If you otherwise liked the school and have nothing else lined up for September, you could always accept it and keep looking elsewhere for the year after.
    The advantages of working in a prep school often (but not always) outweigh the disadvantages.
     

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