Ask the ExpertVerbal offer of employment Ontario
Tanya Sinclair asked 8 months ago

How binding is a verbal job employment offer? In the situation a verbal offer was made three weeks ago for an employer with less than 10 employees however their plans have changed. No contract was given but the employee was told that they would start in a few weeks.
is it OK to email the job application to explain that we are no longer moving forward?
This is for a nine unionized workplace in Ontario.

2 Answers
Glenn Demby Staff answered 8 months ago

That’s a tricky one. While I don’t know the situation, I can provide some general analysis based on basic principles of contract law. 
1. An offeror may withdraw an offer at any time before it’s accepted.
2. If the offer is accepted, a contract is formed. Acceptance will be much easier for the applicant to prove if the acceptance is in writing.
3. Even if the offer wasn’t accepted and a contract wasn’t formed, there may still be a binding agreement under a principle of equity known as promissory estoppel. Rule: If one person makes a promise and the other person relies on that promise to his detriment, the promise remains binding. In this situation, your offer of employment may be seen as a promise to employ. And to the extent the applicant took action in reliance of the offer, e.g., by quitting his current job or relocating, promissory estoppel may apply.
I can’t advise you whether you can send the retraction letter because: a. I don’t know all the facts; and b. More significantly, I’m not qualified to provide legal counsel. All I can really do is make you aware of these general risks. What you really need, I believe, is to talk to a lawyer before deciding how to proceed. Thanks for the question and I hope this helps. Glenn 
Did the applicant ever accept the offer? If so, you may have a binding agreement, especially if the acceptance was put in writing. 

Glenn Demby Staff answered 8 months ago

Oops. Please ignore the last sentence of my reply. That was a leftover from my first draft that I didn’t see–and thus couldn’t delete–until after I hit SEND.