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What can I do if my job offer is revoked?
Job offers aren't revoked often, but it can happen. Here are some things you can do if you find yourself in this situation.
Anna Wilson
2022-09-14
Career Resources

It’s a frightening worst-case scenario: you’ve invested time and energy in each stage of the hiring process, and at long last, you’ve received a job offer. Then, the employer tells you that they’re withdrawing the offer.

Can companies really retract at this late stage, and rescind your job offer? Unfortunately, in certain circumstances, they can – and if you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone. Read on to learn about your rights in this situation, and what steps you can take.

A worrying trend

Certain industries, such as tech, are currently experiencing a slowdown due to market conditions – and this can manifest itself in layoffs, hiring freezes or, in extreme cases, job offer withdrawals.

Recruitment site Glassdoor has seen a surge in community posts about job offers being rescinded: an increase of 217% between January and July 2022. More and more people are finding themselves in the rare and unpleasant position of having a job offer withdrawn at a late stage, perhaps even after they have quit their current role, with just days left until their start date.

Conditional and unconditional job offers

There are two types of job offer: conditional and unconditional. Whether, and how, an employer can rescind a job offer depends on what type of offer was made.

Conditional job offers will be made subject to the prospective hire satisfying certain preconditions. The employer may wish to:

-       Contact your professional references;

-       Perform a background (DBS) check, including criminal record;

-       Verify your right to work in the UK;

-       Perform a medical check;

-       Check your academic qualifications.

If an offer is conditional on any of these checks, the employer can withdraw a job offer if the conditions are not met to their satisfaction. They may find that your references are unsatisfactory, or you’re not medically fit to perform the role. The employer is under no obligation to tell you why they have rescinded a conditional offer.

Unconditional job offers, on the other hand, are not subject to any such conditions. There may be an employment contract, for example if:

-       There were no conditions, ie, no need for reference or DBS checks;

- The employer set out the terms of employment clearly and definitely, either verbally or in writing;

-       You have accepted the job offer.

By law, an employment contract could begin as soon as an offer is accepted, even if only verbally – this is called ‘offer and acceptance’ and is the basis of contract law.

In this case, the employer should not withdraw the offer without also ending the contract. There may be terms that the employer needs to follow in ending the contract – for example, giving notice. If the employer has breached the terms of a contract, the prospective employee may be able to make a court claim. If terms such as the probationary period have not been specified in the contract, the minimum statutory terms may apply.

If you think you might have a legal claim against an employer who has retracted a job offer, you can access support through ACAS. You should also obtain legal advice

Discrimination

There are certain ‘protected characteristics’ which are contained in the Equality Act 2010. If an employer withdraws a job offer on the basis of any of the following, the may be breaking discrimination law:

-       Age;

-       Disability;

-       Gender reassignment;

-       Marriage and civil partnership;

-       Pregnancy and maternity;

-       Race;

-       Religion or belief;

-       Sex;

-       Sexual orientation.

For example, an employer cannot legally withdraw a job offer because of a pregnancy. In this situation, it may be appropriate to bring a claim against the employer before an employment tribunal.

Before making a claim

If you think you might have a claim against an employer who has rescinded a job offer, it is best to discuss with the employer first. Courts and tribunals expect you to attempt alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before pursuing legal action.

You should raise the issue with the employer and:

  • Ask why the job offer was withdrawn (though they may not be under any obligation to tell you);
  • Explain the impact this has had on you, for example, if you’ve already quit your current role;
  • Tell them that you would like to resolve the issue.

If you and the employer are unable to find a solution, it may be appropriate to obtain legal advice to decide what to do next.

Tips to avoid having a job offer withdrawn

Having a job offer rescinded is an unfortunate situation, and not the fault of the prospective hire. However, there are certain steps that you can take to lessen the risk of having a future job offer withdrawn.

1.   Read job postings carefully and ensure that you meet minimum criteria. Whilst you might not need to hit every point on the job description to be a suitable candidate, you should make sure you meet minimum requirements, eg. academic requirements. Otherwise, you could have a job offer withdrawn following checks.

2. Choose your references carefully. Make sure that your referees, whether professional or academic, are reliable and likely to respond to a request for a reference promptly and with positive things to say! You should let your referees know in advance that they might be contacted about a reference for you, so that they are prepared and not put on the spot.

3. Be honest in your application. It’s always best practice to highlight your achievements, skills and experience without inflating your claims to the level of dishonesty. This could lead to a job offer being rescinded at a late stage if an employer finds that you have misrepresented your qualifications or experience.

In addition, if you receive a verbal job offer, you should always follow up with the employer and get something in writing. This will help you to prove that an offer was made and accepted if there are any issues further down the line. For example, you could ask the employer to email you to confirm: the role; the location; the start date; terms of employment eg holiday entitlement or pay; any conditions to the offer.

If you’ve had a job offer rescinded, this can feel like a real step backwards in your job search. It can be demotivating and might leave you feeling like giving up. Try to remember that the situation is most likely caused by economic conditions and companies’ attempts to limit collateral damage, rather than reflecting your potential or abilities. Once you’ve had a chance to recover from the unexpected pitfall, it’s time to dust yourself off and press on with your job search to find the role that’s perfect for you.

 

If you liked this article, keep an eye on the inploi community page for industry news, thought pieces and more, updated every week.

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