Hiring employees can be a truly exciting time for a small business owner– an exciting milestone when it’s done for the first time. It can mean reaching your immediate business goals or achieving a life-long dream of running a successful business of your own.
However, hiring employees can be tricky business for first-timers as the process is riddled with legal pitfalls. For those who are unfamiliar with the process, a job offer letter may appear to be just that– an email of congratulations. The reality is that job offer letters are documents that can carry some legal weight.
Yet, we’re all human and mistakes happen. If you goofed a job offer letter, here’s what you can do to set things straight.
Info to Get Right in your Job Offer Letter
Because the offer letter is the first document that established the working relationship you’ll have with a new employee, there are a few bases that should be covered. The terms of employment—the salary, whether or not it’s an at-will position, and basic rights to termination—should all be included. While job offer letters are less binding than contracts, if it promises certain perks (like a bonus) and you don’t deliver, you could find yourself in hot water.
If you made a mistake in the letter, don’t panic. There are things you can to do fix it.
What if You Make a Mistake?
The first thing you should do is open up transparent lines of communication with the employee, whether or not they have already accepted the job. Remember that post-offer letter changes seem like sneaky behavior on your part, so you’ll want to be clear that you made a genuine mistake and that you’re not trying to pull one over on your newest hire.
Regardless of what’s said in the job offer letter, the most important paperwork is the employment contract. If everything in that document is okay, you should be good to go with some well-documented correspondence with your new hire about the mistake in the offer letter and a clear demonstration that everyone understands the expectations set out in the terms of the employment contract moving forward.
If there’s an error in the employment contract, that’s when things can get hairy depending on whether or not both parties agree that it was a mistake. It gets complicated if one party, particularly the employee, believes that the error was a genuine part of the contract. That’s usually when lawyers and the court get involved, but a simple mistake on a job offer letter is unlikely to land you there– so long as you act quickly and responsibly.
The bottom line is this: If you made a mistake in an employee’s job offer letter, the best thing you can do is to communicate with them about it and set the records straight. Next, learn from your mistake and consider giving your future offer letters an extra proofread to make sure it’s error-free and save yourself the stress next time around.