Career Clinic

Q: I have just been offered a job which I have already verbally accepted. However, when the contract arrived in the post, the terms and conditions were not quite what I was expecting. Do I have the right to go back to them and demand a better deal, or will I end up talking myself out of the job?

A: You should definitely stop short of “demanding a better deal”, but by all means go back and query the terms and conditions.

A verbal offer of employment can be binding, and managers who gaily offer what they think the terms are rather than checking out what the reality is are the bane of an HR officer’s life.

However, in these cases, there is clear documentary evidence of the erroneous offer. You describe your case as “not quite what you were expecting”, which is very different. Most local authorities use pay bandings and, as a general rule of thumb, staff start at the bottom and work their way to the top of the scale based on length of service.

So, if your verbal offer was along the lines of “salary up to ‘x'”, it may have been a perfectly good one. Starting salary can also reflect qualifications and experience, so it may be possible to negotiate a higher starting rate of pay if you can claim you are a senior practitioner rather than newly qualified, for example. In some cases, the amount of paid annual leave given is also linked to continuous service.

There are some authorities who have negotiated their way out of salary scales and use “spot” salaries for some if not all posts. In these cases, there is much less scope for the salary quoted to vary from the interview situation to the written offer.

These matters can be quite confusing and sometimes we hear selectively – ie the bits that we want to hear stick and the bits we don’t quite understand get a bit lost. Also, at interview, managers can be tempted to shorthand the terms and conditions and quote what is likely to happen rather than what may actually happen.

If you identify exactly which terms you think have changed from the original offer and read through all of the small print, you will have a better feel for whether to go back and query them.

If you go in all guns blazing they might well be tempted to withdraw the offer altogether! If, however, you raise some genuine queries and ask for clarification, there shouldn’t be a problem.

Alison Sanger is a social care HR consultant

A: Definitely go back and ask for whatever you were promised. You have to start as you mean to go on – allowing them to think they can get away with stitching you up now would set a dangerous precedent. They will probably admire you for your attention to detail and your ability to stand up and be counted. Don’t settle for less!

Name and address withheld

A: It is unusual at an interview to go through all the terms and conditions in fine detail. Surely we are not talking pay, holiday, hours, location or expenses here. Having said that, make sure you research the employer and that you feel you can trust them.

Name and address withheld

31 Jan Question

Q: I’m struggling to keep up with my workload and it’s affecting what my boss thinks of me. It’s also affecting the way I work with my team and I’m now finding I can’t switch off from work properly. What can I do?

We will answer this question in the 31 January 2008 issue of Community Care. Please email your responses by 21 January to

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