If you have a job offer withdrawn, it can be a stressful and devastating time. Your legal rights and protections in this situation depend on the nature of the offer.
If you’d already accepted a job offer, it may mean employment contract has been formed, even if you did not sign a document. There are also some situations where a job offer can be withdrawn without you having recourse.
Our guide looks at the different types of job offers, and when you may have the right to seek compensation from your prospective employer.
Can a Job Offer be Withdrawn After Acceptance?
Once you’ve accepted a job offer, you have entered into a legal contract with your new employer. This means an employer can’t withdraw an offer without breaching your contract of employment. If you’ve formally accepted a new job, you can take legal action in relation to this breach.
Your right to take legal action and seek some compensation will depend upon the nature of the offer, and whether a contract of employment has been formed between you and your new employer.
Let’s take a look at the different types of job offers, and understand the scenarios in which you have legal recourse when an employer changes their mind.
Conditional Job Offer
Some employers make a conditional job offer. This means the position is offered on the proviso that certain expectations are met. This means that the employee must meet some specific requirements.
A job offer will become unconditional once the prospective employer is satisfied their requirements have been met by their candidate.
Such conditions can include:–
- References from Previous Employers: These should demonstrate the employee’s high standards of work. Employers can give a bad reference if they have legitimate reasons for doing so. This may lead to the withdrawal of the job offer.
- Meeting Job Qualifications Employees may be asked to provide details of their education, exam results and higher education qualifications. Should these not meet the necessary standards for the job, the employer might withdraw the job offer.
- Background Check: Some jobs require a DBS check which involves making checks to ensure an employee has a clean criminal record. Discoveries of past criminal activities can result in the job offer mbeing withdrawn.
- Medical Examination: Some jobs, such as the police force, require potential candidates to pass a fitness test. Failing to meet required health and fitness standards after the initial interview, may mean the job can no longer be offered.
- Prove Your Right to Work in the UK: If, after a conditional offer is made, the applicant cannot prove their right to work in the UK legally, the offer will be cancelled.
You should avoid resigning from your previous position before you have ensured all conditions for your job offer have been met. If you fail to meet any of the conditions, your employer has the right to withdraw your job offer.
If you have met all the specified conditions of an offer of employment, and your position is withdrawn you will have the right to take legal action for breach of contract.
Unconditional Job Offer
An unconditional job offer is an offer made without any prerequisites or additional criteria for the prospective employee to fulfill.
Typically, these offers come with a specified acceptance window, requiring prompt action from the recipient. Once accepted, you enter into a legally binding employment contract.
Full details of your employment contract and job offer should be provided in writing at the time an unconditional offer is made. This includes information such as contracted hours, pay, annual leave and other entitlements. You should also be provided with a start date.
If you’ve accepted an unconditional job offer which is later withdrawn, you will have the right to seek compensation for breach of employment contract.
How to Check if An Employment Contract Started
In order to seek compensation, you’ll also need to have evidence that an employment contract existed between you and the employer.
The strongest proof of an employment contract is a formal signed document. However, If you don’t have a signed contract of employment, this does not mean you have no right to take legal action. Contracts can be verbal as well as written.
Here’s some examples of how you might successfully prove a contract of employment existed if you don’t have a signed document:-
- Job Offer in Writing: Even if it’s not a formal contract of employment, a written job offer outlining terms and conditions, which you’ve accepted, could be considered evidence.
- Start Date: If you’ve been given a definite start date.
- Terms Discussed: Salary, working hours, job responsibilities, and other terms have been clearly communicated and agreed upon.
- Actions and Conduct: If you’ve participated in activities usually reserved for employees, such as attending staff meetings, or training.
- Withdrawal from Other Job Offers: If you rejected other job offers based on this particular offer, it might indicate a perceived mutual agreement.
- Preparation for the Job: For example, if you’ve relocated or purchased specific equipment or clothing based on the requirements of your new role.
- Communications: Emails, letters, or other correspondence about the job, including discussions about the start date, responsibilities, and other specifics.
- References: If the employer has contacted your previous employer for references or requested that you provide them.
- Verbal Agreement: If you had a conversation where the terms of employment were discussed and both parties agreed, even if not in writing, it might be seen as a contract.
Your Rights If The Employment Contract Has Started
Once an employment contract has been formed by you accepting a job offer, you are an employee and automatically have rights under contract law and protections under UK employment law.
You have the right to:-
- Be paid for your contractual notice period. If this is refused, you may be able to make a financial claim against your employer for breach of contract.
- Make a claim if you think your job offer was withdrawn for discriminatory reasons such as being pregnant or your employer having found out about a disability.
Source: DavidsonMorris.com – withdrawing an offer of employment.
Reasons for Lost Job Offers
There can be many reasons for having a job offer retracted, many of the reasons you’ll lose out on a role will relate to conditional job offers.
Common reasons to lose a job offer include:-
Conditional employment offers may mean you lose a job after getting a bad reference. Former employers can only give a negative reference for legitimate reasons.
Some of these reasons include:-
- Poor performance.
- Any form of misconduct or gross misconduct.
- Excessive lateness or absences.
- Not meeting the company’s standards of work ethic.
- Lack of skills for the job.
A bad reference shouldn’t come as a shock. If your previous employer provides an untruthful employment reference, you may be able to take legal action against them.
This is why some companies opt to cover the very basics on a factual reference to avoid any legal complications. Such references will simply give the job title and the start and end dates.
You may have a job offer withdrawn based on a poor sickness record. This will often be listed on a job reference.
Many businesses use systems such as the Bradford factor to track staff absences. If staff fall below the level accepted then disciplinary proceedings may follow.
Failed DBS Check
A job offer may be retracted if an employee fails their DBS check. Some jobs require a basic or enhanced check and if either shows anything up, it might be enough to not get the job.
However, it often depends on the job role and the nature of the offence.
Change of Circumstances for Employer
Sometimes a job offer might be withdrawn for a business reason. It might be that the business has suffered some financial loss and they can no longer justify taking on new staff.
Or perhaps the business structure has changed and the job role is no longer viable. In this situation you should be paid for your contractual notice period.
If You Think You’ve Been Discriminated Against
In cases where you feel you have been discriminated against, you may wish to consider taking further action. You can do this by making an employment tribunal claim.
The Equality Act of 2010 protects workers from discriminatory behaviour. If you had a job offer withdrawn for discriminatory reasons, you might be able to make a tribunal claim.
In the first instance, contact ACAS for advice about your situation to find out your rights. You may also need to seek the advice of an employment law specialist. They would help you build a case for a tribunal.
You would need to gather as much evidence as possible and it is likely your solicitor or ACAS will enter concilication with your former employer. As a last resort, a tribunal will go ahead and allow you to seek compensation.
If you need further advice, you can contact ACAS or Citizens Advice for free legal help in the first instance. To take action at a tribunal, you have 3 months less 1 day to file. That means it’s important to act sooner rather than later.