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I have been interviewing with a company, received an unconditional job offer, handed in my notice, turned down other job offers and then I am given a "heads up" by them that the start date is unknown "at this stage" due to the employee I was replacing who decided to stay longer in the job. This is UK.

What do I do? I am jobless within 1 week and I do not want to give up on the job as this might be a breach of contract on my side. What should I do? I feel they are not reassuring me enough that things are going to be solved. Please help, I am desperate.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Remember to edit clarifications into the question. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 21:47

3 Answers 3

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NB: This touches on some legal aspects and I feel compelled to stress that I am not a lawyer and this post in no way should be construed as legal advice!

As you've already realized this is an utterly rubbish situation and your new employer is behaving shoddily by doing this.

The Good News

Since they have given you an unconditional (this is important) job offer in writing then you have the ultimate fall back position of suing them for breach of contract. Hopefully though it won't get that far - they may not realize that them messing about with your start date is having such a severe impact, ideally you need to make them aware in a non-antagonistic way. Something like:

Dear [new job contact]. I'm a bit concerned following your recent communication about my start date. My last day at my current employer is already confirmed as X date as I was expecting to start with yourselves on Y date so I'm looking to get my actual start date firmed up as soon as possible and ideally as close to Y date as is feasible as while I'm very keen to work with you I can't afford to be out of work indefinitely as I'm sure you can understand.

If the proposed delay is only a week or two (and they commit to a date) then it's not great but not entirely unreasonable either. If they come back with something longer than a month then that's not on and I'd say at that point you just have to move on - give them the notice period that is required in your contract with them and make it very clear that you are willing to "work" that period - this would preclude you being able to start an alternative employment during that time without their consent but as long as you observe this they can't sue you for any breach.

The Bad News

While backing out of the offer itself would be them breaching contract with you any employment solicitor or HR person with even one flickering brain cell would know better than to go down that route and would simply have you start under a pretty standard "probation" period, employ you for a very short time and then give you a week's notice and there wouldn't be anything you could do about it.

Essentially you can't force them to employ you properly - pressing nicely but firmly for a start date they stick to is not unreasonable though. And if they aren't prepared to give you that I'd call that a major red flag that these are not people you want to work for!

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  • Motosubatsu I totally agree with you. I would understand if this would be 1 or 2 weeks, it wouldn't be a big deal to wait that long 'as long as' the start date would be definite. But in the light of all this I doubt they would be serious about that too. Also I haven't signed a contract per se yet, we have just emails between us and obviously the offer and acceptance ones.
    – user79211
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 9:35
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    In the UK the written offer and your acceptance of it does constitute a binding employment contract in of itself. Since you haven't had the full contract to sign yet you obviously don't know what the notice period would be so if it does come to you having to move on (and hopefully it won't) then you would have to ask them what your notice period is. It's largely academic though since I highly doubt they would enforce any such period anyway since they would have to pay you for it!
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 9:40
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First let me say. I'm sorry but that just sucks.

I have been interviewing with a company, received an unconditional job offer, handed in my notice, turned down other job offers and then I am given a "heads up" by them that the start date is unknown "at this stage" due to the employee I was replacing who decided to stay longer in the job. This is UK.

I experienced almost the exact same thing many years ago, and it too was with a UK company. You see, I live in Toronto, Canada but interviewed with a UK company for a new job. The situation was different in that they were setting up office here in Toronto.

I had tried to protect myself, and asked for the job offer in writing with a start date.

What do I do? I am jobless within 1 week and I do not want to give up on the job as this might be a breach of contract on my side. What should I do? I feel they are not reassuring me enough that things are going to be solved. Please help, I am desperate.

That was my situation too. I had a written offer and everything looked good. I resigned my job (also done in writing) and my employer even threw a goodbye lunch party. I also spent some time telling people how excited I was for my new job. My employer had also hired a replacement while I was awaiting my new job to start.

The date arrived and the new office was nowhere to be found. The UK company had failed to get their new location going. I was given also an "indefinite" start date.

You took the risk

You quit your job. That's all on you. You're so focused right now on what happen and how you feel about it that you're wasting time.

You are basically unemployed and if you are lucky your old employer will take you back, but as in my case that door closed.

You have only two options on the table right now

  • Do nothing and continue to place your trust in a company that has already wronged you.
  • Start your job search and find a job.

You're right to be angry

You sure are in the right to be mad. I know I was angry when this happen to me. Sadly, it doesn't change anything and often makes it difficult to focus on finding another job.

Take walks or do some jogging to release the stress. Write the company an angry letter, print it out and burn it. Do what you need to do but get past this quickly as time is money.

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I have been interviewing with a company, received an unconditional job offer, handed in my notice, turned down other job offers and then I am given a "heads up" by them that the start date is unknown "at this stage" due to the employee I was replacing who decided to stay longer in the job. This is UK.

This is an awful situation, but really does show the importance of having a firm start date in writing on a signed contract before declining other offers and handing in notice. If you did have this, then it might be wise to speak to a lawyer before doing anything else.

What do I do? I am jobless within 1 week and I do not want to give up on the job as this might be a breach of contract on my side. What should I do? I feel they are not reassuring me enough that things are going to be solved. Please help, I am desperate.

IANAL, so certainly can't advise on any legal side. The lack of a firm start date smells really suspicious however, and if it were me I'd be actively hunting around for other work (not just contacting a few other offers you had before and asking if they're still looking.) At the very least this gives you a fallback if things don't work out, and if they do then you haven't lost anything by continuing to actively hunt around. The alternative is that you could easily end up out of work in a week with no fallback, which wouldn't be a great place.

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  • There was an initial firm start date in place. Next Monday. They called to say 'we would need to delay it to an indefinite date 'at this stage' (what stage, this is the final stage!") and that's where it stopped. Sent an email earlier for an update and so far nothing
    – user79211
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 13:35
  • In a comment the OP mentioned that he did have a start date in writing from them as part of his unconditional offer - and in the UK this does constitute a binding contract of employment so he did do things by the book at least.
    – motosubatsu
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 13:35
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    i have not ceased applying, but still, you can appreciate the s....y place i m in at the moment :( to be honest i wrote here to see if anyone as come across and if any advice on the outcome and also not to feel so alone at the moment :(
    – user79211
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 13:37
  • @user79211 I can absolutely appreciate it - and you have my condolences, it's a terrible situation to be in. Unfortunately though there's no quick fix other than to keep looking and potentially get a lawyer involved. I hope you find a good place at a much better company soon.
    – berry120
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 14:19

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