Law guide: Workplace

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Job offers

Job offers

Before you accept a job offer make sure you know your rights and what a prospective employer expects of you.

Job offers

Job offers will usually be in writing, although you may be offered the job verbally first. It's best not to accept until you've seen the offer in writing. Offer letters should include:

  • The job title and a brief job description
  • The location
  • The terms (for example, pay, hours, holiday entitlement)
  • The starting date and any induction period

It's possible the job offer will be described as 'conditional'. If so, it should also describe the conditions you need to meet (e.g. satisfactory references) and anything that you need to do and your deadline for doing it.

If you meet the conditions set out in the offer letter, you should receive an unconditional offer once your prospective employer knows this. If you can, wait until you receive the unconditional offer before handing in your notice with your current employer.

Changing your mind once you've accepted an offer

Once you've accepted an unconditional offer, a contract of employment exists between you and your new employer.

If you have second thoughts about a job you've just accepted, ask the employer to agree to let you go. Give notice as soon as you can - preferably before you start.

Your new employer won't be happy if this happens, and there's a possibility they may try to sue you for breach of contract if you don't give at least the amount of notice on your contract or offer letter.

What happens if an employer withdraws a job offer?

If the offer's withdrawn before you have a chance to accept, or because you haven't met the conditions (for example, providing a 'satisfactory' reference), you can't take any action, unless it has been withdrawn for reasons of unlawful discrimination.

However, once you've accepted an unconditional offer, and the prospective employer withdraws it, you can claim for compensation for breach of contract.

If you don't get the job

If a job application fails, it's a good idea to find out why. The employer doesn't have to give you any feedback. However, you can ask to see the interview notes and other personal data if these form part of a set of information that has been filed together with the application form and other recruitment documents.

What to do next

If you're unhappy with an employer before or after accepting a job offer, you should first talk to them informally to find out if there's a way of sorting out the problem.

If you want to complain about discrimination you can go to an employment tribunal (or industrial tribunal in Northern Ireland). If your contract has been broken you can claim in the ordinary courts.

Where to get help

For England, Wales and Scotland, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on employment rights issues.

For Northern Ireland, the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on all employment rights issues.

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