Alsuwaidi & Company

Legal consultants UAE

Is job offer letter legally binding on the employee and the employer?

Our latest insight from Reda Hegazy.

A Job 
Offer Letter:

It is the intention of an employer to appoint a prospective employee under the conditions and features that are outlined in a job offer. This offer is generally prepared in writing in order to prove its content easily, and it may include terms of contract and spell out specific details of the potential employee’s role such as salary, benefits, description of the position and any pertinent details concerning employment conditions. Other details would be generally discussed upon agreement and the signing of the employment contract which would be conducted by the two parties.

Structure of a Job Offer Letter:

The job offer may be in the form of a letter on the company or employer’s official letterhead, which is then to be signed and sealed by the company stamp. This letter may be sent to the prospective employee by regular mail, hand delivery, by e-mail, fax or by social media such as WhatsApp or Facebook. Alternatively, it may be in the form of an e-mail sent from the employer’s official e-mail and electronically signed or signed by the head of Human Resources department or by the company’s general manager or any person who has the task of selecting and appointing employees. All these modern means are legally considered as a proof.

Legal Obligation of Job Offer Letter of Both Parties:

The job offer issued by the employer to the prospective employee is considered an affirmative acceptance issued by the employer, which then is awaiting acceptance from the prospective employee. If the prospective employee amends the job offer letter, this shall be deemed a new affirmation by the prospective employee awaiting acceptance from the employer, in accordance with the general rules of contracts. Alternatively, if the prospective employee agrees with what has been included in the job offer letter, then the contract is concluded, and any other details shall be governed by their agreement in the employment contract.

When Employment Contracts Supersede the Job Offer Letter:

It is known in contracts that the subsequent contract supersedes the previous. In other words, if the parties in the employment contract agree on terms and conditions which vary or which are in conflict with the job offer letter, in this case, what prevails between the parties is the employment contract as it has been concluded after the job offer letter. This is what has been set out in the Dubai Courts judgements in terms of what is agreed upon in the employment contract is considered in determining the rights and obligations of both the employer and the employee. What has been indicated in the job offer letter is reproduced in the employment contract. The new contract regulates the relationship between the two parties, which means that they may intentionally agree to exclude what was provided or was in conflict with the terms and conditions in the previous contract. (Dubai Court of Cassation judgment No. 182 of 2016, Labor Appeal issued on 10/01/2017) .In the case that the employment contract does not mention some of what has been agreed upon in the job offer letter, the contract shall take into account what has been provided in the job offer letter, unless it has been indicated in the employment contract clearly and expresses the intention of cancelling all that has been previously agreed upon between the two parties.

Accepting the Job Offer Letter Does Not Equal the Starting of a Role:

The acceptance of a job offer letter does not mean that the employment has started unless there is proof that it has actually started. The job offer letter is solely an offer of employment from the employer to the prospective employee and not the actual commencement of the employment date. Thus, any individual who claims that an employment has started must be able to prove it. This is what has been set out in the Dubai Judiciary judgements. As stated by one of the provisions; “a job offer letter does not mean that the employment relationship between the employee and the employer has started unless there is written proof which clarifies that the offer has already been effective. In such, the burden of proof shall be borne by the party who is claiming the starting of the employment relationship”. (Dubai Court of Cassation Judgment No. 109/2009 Labor Appeal issued on 26/01/2010).

Legal Liability Arising from the Non-Compliance of a Job Offer Letter:

After a job offer letter is accepted by the prospective employee and the employer, it becomes a legally binding contract. If the prospective employee or the employer does not comply with the terms and conditions in the job offer letter after accepting it, such as if the employee refrains from joining the company (or if the employer denies the employee the ability to join), in this case, the party who breaches the obligation has to compensate the other party for damages caused or loss of profits.

In the case that the prospective employee has accepted the job offer letter, the employer has an obligation to employ him/her according to that job offer letter and in accordance with good faith of the implementation of the contract. It has been set out in the Judiciary Judgements that the contract is the law of the contracting parties and it becomes valid with the existence and availability of its conditions and terms and has legal implications which regulates the relations between the contracting parties. According to Article 246 of the UAE Civil Transactions Law, the contract shall be implemented according to the provisions contained therein and in a manner consistent with the requirements of good faith, and that the obligations established by the contract shall be carried out in accordance with the nature of the conduct and the requirements for its implementation in good faith. (Dubai Court of Cassation judgment issued on 09-03-2017 Appeal No 6/2017 Civil Appeal).

If the employer violates what has been stated in the job offer letter, this will cause damage to the prospective employee, as he may have resigned from his previous work upon receiving the job offer letter and accepting it. This would result in a loss of income, as he would not be able to return to his previous work because the new employer has breached his commitment.

Another example, if the prospective employee is from abroad and has relocated to the new workplace because of the job offer letter, only to find out that there is no available work as promised by the employer. This then would lead to a damaged relationship and the loss of his previous work, incurred travel expenses, and so on. Therefore, all these must be taken into account in the assessment of compensation for damages.

Furthermore, if the prospective employee refuses to join the company in accordance with the agreed job offer letter, it may result to damage and loss to the employer, such as if the employer is committed to a specific project, contracted with others to provide a specific service or a certain product, and its implementation depended on the commitment of the employee to join the work. These also shall be taken into account in estimating the compensation.

The Dubai Court of Cassation judgements stipulate that compensation in contractual liability, if not stated in the law or in the contract, may be assessed by the judge and must include the loss of the creditor’s rights. There is nothing in the law that prevents the calculation of loss – in the loss of profits – if the injured party would hope to be compensated as long as this hope is reasonably justified. (Dubai Court of Cassation Judgments of 21-01-2018 Appeal No. 855/2017 Commercial Appeal).