Gaslighting on verbal agreements... who is legally "right"?

Suppose that a party A agrees to hire party B for a job, and at the moment party B seems like the most viable candidate available, so they meet and discuss the job, and party B expresses enthusiasm and proposes a weekly pay rate, which she says she saw advertised on party A's advertisement which she had originally responded to. In fact the advertisement didn't specify such a weekly rate of pay, but upon reflection it seemed perfectly acceptable to party A, so he agrees.

They meet on Friday evening, and agree, informally, in a verbal but explicit agreement, all in terms reassuringly proposed by party B based ostensibly on what she'd read in the ad, to a weekly rate of pay, and of working hours.

They start work the following two weekend days, with the explicit mutual understanding that the particular days to be worked could be flexible but would amount to a certain number of weekly hours, and that while B had already prior commitments for the coming Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, she would then be available full time on an ongoing basis, and that she would work Thursday and Friday, and then one of the weekend days to make up a full first "week".

Both parties on Thursday have a late start, and B decides it is then too late to bother at all, suspiciously as if in fact she had other things to do, and they resume on Friday.

After first becoming exposed to some sensitive materials in the morning, B decides midway, rather disruptively, through work on Friday afternoon, that as she is not yet sure if she would be available on Saturday, she would like to be paid right then as it was agreed that she would be paid on a weekly basis. She abruptly declares that as the cleaner in her building gets paid £X/hour, and she had worked 23 hours in the prior 3 working days, that she should be paid, then and there, £X*23.

A was quite confused, because 23 was barely more than half of the agreed 40 hour work week as proposed by B, and reasoned that they should be paid a pro-rata £W*(23/40), where W was the explicitly (if verbally) agreed weekly rate of pay.

B retorts that that is "only £Y/hour, do you really think that I would work for so little?"

A conversation about what was actually said then ensues between A and B wherein B tries in various convoluted ways to distort what had actually been said, before pressuring A, quite taken aback and put on the spot by the exercise, to agree then to a new hourly rate of pay, £Z/hour which is 60% of the way from £Y to £X, closer to B's demanded £X.

They then settle the 23 hours on this basis due to A not having any suitable replacements for B and being caught on the spot, and schedule another subsequent short day of work, which is performed by B, albeit not with very much gusto. Further, it seems that scheduling has now become a great challenge, and that B is no longer effectively available "full time" as many of her days now seem to be "already booked".

B now wants to be paid for the last (fourth) day of work at the newly agreed rate. In A's opinion, B has already been overpaid on the basis of the old agreement's rate of £Y/hour (derived from £W/week), at the rate of £Z/hour, even factoring in the subsequent 4th day worked. A further feels that their trust in the verbal contract had been quite violated, in addition to the distortions of what had and hadn't been said.

Has B in fact been overpaid when insisting so inappropriately to renegotiate the contract post-facto? In such case, which verbal contract actually prevails?

  • 1
    You should edit your post to make it concise. It is hard to keep track of various details because they are loosely "tied" to the story or not relevant at all. That results in a needlessly long, convoluted story. For instance, "B decides it is then too late to bother at all, suspiciously as if in fact she had other things to do" reflects B's cluelessness about herself. Likewise, A's general weakness and confusion (example: between weekly and hourly pay rate) prompts the question of whether he has legal capacity to contract. Commented May 12, 2022 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


Contracts can be renegotiated

However, I'm not entirely sure that's what's happened here.

agree, informally, in a verbal but explicit agreement, ... to a weekly rate of pay, and of working hours.

Well, there's nothing "informal" about that: it is a valid and legally binding contract. A will work the weekly hours, B will pay A the weekly rate - I don't know what these are because the OP hasn't said but presumably A & B do.

After having worked 23 hours, A demands payment.

B thinks this is £W*(23/40)=£Y*23. It appears that B is assuming 40 is the agreed weekly hours. I begin to suspect that the actual number of hours in a week might not have been agreed upon. The average hours worked by a full-time employee in the UK is 36.5, and the maximum allowed by law is 48 (averaged over 17 weeks). It appears that B might have assumed the working week was 40 hours. A may have had a different assumption, perhaps 36.5, perhaps less.

A thinks it is £X*23. We don't know why A thinks this other than a reference to another occupation.

Notwithstanding, there is a genuine disagreement over the hourly rate in the contract. In normal circumstances, we would turn to the document where the parties wrote done their agreement except ... yeah. So recollections differ as they often do and the parties negotiate a comprise of £Z*23.

Since the parties have resolved their dispute or, alternatively, renegotiated their contract, there is now no doubt that the pay rate is £Z/h. If B isn't happy with that, too bad - they shouldn't have agreed to it.

B would be well advised to avoid using pejorative terms like "gaslighting". There appears to be no evidence of that and it's unhelpful to dispute resolution. Other unhelpfully terms include liar, racist, fascist, and child-molester.

If B feels that A is not satisfactorily performing their duties, then B can terminate them in accordance with UK employment law.

  • The employee had explicitly proposed the weekly hour count of 40. One has to take my word for it, because only A and B actually know what was proposed and agreed in the initial meeting, as there was no written contract.
    – user22222
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 12:21
  • for the hours worked subsequent to the renegotiation, this surely makes sense, but I am asking if the renegotiation can apply retrospectively to the hours worked prior to its occurrence.
    – user22222
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 12:22
  • @user22222 yes.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 12:33
  • On what basis? Couldn't it be just as easily said (especially when there are objective grounds to suppose that the employee was being disingenuous rather than not recalling what was said) that if she didn't want to work for £W/40/hour then she shouldn't have explicitly proposed and agreed to £W/week and 40 hours, as it can be said that the employer shouldn't have agreed to the renegotiation on the basis of bad faith distortions of what had been said?
    – user22222
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 12:38
  • @user22222 but the employer did agree. Unless there was coercion (i.e. gun to the head type pressure), the renegotiation is valid.
    – Dale M
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 12:40

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