Have you ever been in a situation where you might have to withdraw a job offer to a candidate? This happened recently to one of my clients when a manager made an offer without approval, and it had to be withdrawn three days later. The employee’s notice period was zero in the first month, but they still tried to file for damages. They put a claim through ACAS, but it wasn’t successful. In the end, the employee’s former boss gave them their old job back, so the damage was minimal. However, not every business is this fortunate which is why you need to be aware of the rules.
Can you withdraw a job offer?
In theory, yes, but the withdrawal window closes when the job offer is accepted by the candidate. Companies can rescind an offer of employment at any time if the offer is conditional and one of the conditions has not been met. Common conditions include proof of qualifications, references, eligibility to work in the UK and other background checks.
Can unconditional job offers be withdrawn?
This is when things become tricky. Closing the door on a candidate by withdrawing an unconditional offer leaves the window open for them suing you for breach of contract. Technically, employment begins when an offer is accepted, so the candidate enjoys the same rights as an employee. In the eyes of the law, a verbal offer and acceptance is as valid as a written offer, even if the candidate has yet to start work or receive a contract.
How do you avoid legal action?
Firstly, make sure that every candidate receives a conditional job offer, as this provides an extra layer of protection. When dealing with unconditional job offers, you need to treat the candidate as an employee by serving a notice period as per your company policy. When you withdraw a job offer, it is vital that you avoid any behaviour that could be viewed as discriminatory. Question whether your decision has been influenced by any of the following factors:
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Relationship status
- Sexual orientation.
If you feel any of these areas affected your judgement, you will need to review your decision to withdraw the job offer.
How do I withdraw a job offer that has been accepted?
Whatever the reason behind your decision, you need to be able to supply evidence that the withdrawal was not discriminatory or unfair. This approach will provide a defence to any legal proceedings, while maintaining the professionalism of the business. You will need to write a letter formally withdrawing the offer of employment to the candidate. This letter should include the dates, job details and the reasons why they failed to meet the required conditions. If you made an unconditional offer, try to call the candidate to explain the reasons for the withdrawal. Be open and honest about the reasons for the decision, especially if it is due to human error or a change in company finances. The personal touch can be accepted more easily than just sending a formal letter. When you do send the decision in writing, follow it up with a call as this shows a level of professionalism and compassion.
Having to withdraw a job offer can be fraught with danger, so I advise you seek professional advice. JT HRConsultancy is an established HR services company based in Bedfordshire with clients across the UK. If you need help of advice on an employment issue, call me on 07715 026128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org