What happens when a job offer is withdrawn?
Offering and accepting a job offer can be a time of mixed emotions – happiness, relief, anxiety, and even confusion in some circumstances. But occasionally things go wrong when they’ve barely begun and the job offer is withdrawn.
As specialist equine Recruitment Consultants we see all too often situations where an offer of employment is given or accepted, but not seen as valid or important because nothing is in writing and the employee hasn’t started the job, and often with totally avoidable consequences. This is why, at Caroline Carter Recruitment, we strongly recommend both employers and job seekers take their time and take advice before venturing into a legally binding employment contract.
So this begs the question: what is the correct procedure for withdrawing a job offer or acceptance?
Now, here’s the thing – as discussed in our article Employment Contracts in the Equine Industry, not everyone realises that an employment contract actually begins when a job offer is accepted. Employers and job seekers cannot always simply u-turn on an agreement because employment hasn’t yet started without legally being in “breach of contract”.
Making the decision to withdraw a job offer
It’s easy to assume that a good proportion of job offers that are withdrawn are done so with little or no consequences beyond disappointment and inconvenience but in reality, the consequences can be very upsetting.
For employers, horses don’t look after themselves, and if a newly appointed candidate u-turns on the job at the 11th hour the yard can be left in a terrible situation, with little or no time to organise a replacement.
Likewise, when a candidate accepts a job offer, tenders 2-4 weeks’ notice on their live-in job in preparation to move to their new live-in employment lock, stock and barrel, quite possibly with a horse(s) and dog(s) in tow. Should their new employer then withdraw the job offer, that person is not only left without a job but potentially homeless, along with their horse(s) and any pets.
Withdrawing a job offer is very serious action to take, and must never be taken lightly and never without great consideration for the employee. It is of consequence that there are measures in place to help protect both parties in this event.
When you are entitled to withdraw a job offer
There really is only one circumstance in which a job offer is withdrawn without a breach of the statutory employment contract – when the job offer is conditional and said conditions are not met. In order for this to be watertight, the conditions have to be reasonable and relevant to the job role. For example:
- The employer makes a job offer on the condition that the candidate receives favourable references from previous employers
- an HGV licence is a requirement of the job; an otherwise suitable candidate has only just passed their HGV, so a job offer is made on the condition that the candidate provides proof of their new driving licence status
- a job offer on the condition that the candidate provides proof of their right to work in *said* country
Once the conditions are met the employer is legally bound to continue to employ them. If the candidate fails to provide adequate proof/receives unfavourable or no references the employer can withdraw the job offer without being in breach of contract.
To safeguard job seekers from potential losses as a result of serving notice on their job, the UK Government advises job seekers against serving notice on their current job until they know they and their prospective employer are in agreement that they have met all stipulated requirements, and an unconditional job offer is then made.
When withdrawing a job offer risks a legal dispute
Withdrawing an unconditional job offer is almost always considered to be a breach of contract, and employers could find that the candidate has legal grounds to seek redress.
Withdrawing a conditional job offer is not considered to be a breach of contract, providing the candidate genuinely hasn’t met the conditions of the offer. Otherwise may be regarded as a breach of contract if:
- the candidate can provide evidence that the employer discriminated against them when withdrawing the offer. This means the candidate is within their right to take legal action via a tribunal. (For example, if an employer later found a younger/older/lighter/shorter/more experienced/candidate of another gender, nationality, race, faith or culture etc, the job offer can’t legally be withdrawn on the basis that it was conditional)
- the candidate can demonstrate that they have actually met the conditions of the offer. This means the candidate could sue the employer on the grounds of breach of contract.
Knowing where you stand
Employers withdrawing a job offer
Generally speaking; unless the requirement/s of a properly constructed conditional job offer isn’t met, withdrawing a job offer is legally a breach of contract.
Candidates withdrawing acceptance of a job offer
If a candidate accepts an unconditional offer and then changes their mind, the employer can:
- make the candidate work out any contractual element of their notice
- sue the candidate for breach of contract
With this in mind:
- Never accept a job offer without thoroughly thinking everything through. Your acceptance of the job offer is just as important to the employer as your next job is to you.
- If you need to withdraw acceptance of a job, let the employer/recruiter know as early as possible, to leave the employer as much time as possible to find another candidate for their job vacancy.
Always seek legal advice (for example, from ACAS) before withdrawing your agreement relating to new employment.
Sources and further reading
Conditional Job Offers: Blocks Solicitors
Putting a Job Offer in writing: Workable
Job Offers: Your Rights – UK Government Website