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I accepted an offer, signed a contract and I am expected to join in 3 or so weeks. I am having second thoughts about this now due to a clause in the contract. I did raise this clause as a concern and delayed the contract signing by a week. However, the recruiter eventually convinced me to accept the clause.

Obviously, I take full responsibility for signing the contract and I haven't decided to definitely pull out. I was just curious what are the legal implications of pulling out the contract before the join date? This is in the UK.

closed as off-topic by Mister Positive, Jim G., gnat, Cronax, HorusKol Mar 20 '18 at 12:37

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    What was the clause in the contract that made you feel this way? – Glen Pierce Mar 20 '18 at 2:44
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    What does the contract say about termination of the contract? – L.Dutch Mar 20 '18 at 6:38
  • When does the contract come into effect? when you sign it, or when/if you start work? – Mawg Mar 20 '18 at 11:28
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    I think this is a lawyer level question. There are many possible implications and nitpicks. The basic answer is in "terms of breach" and damage to reputation. However, the clause might be abusive, the contract might have not come into life, some other parts of the contract might be helpful to get out of it, etc. etc. The concrete implications should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. – luk32 Mar 20 '18 at 11:44
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This would be breach of contract and you could in theory be sued for damages by the other party. What counts as damages here will depend a bit on the situation, but it could be the cost of filling your role plus whatever opportunity cost your employer can argue has been lost via not having your role filled.

In practice, this is unlikely to happen, because the alternative, that you turn up on your first day at your new employer and immediately resign, is a farce nobody wants. Phone up your new employer and explain the situation and you should be able to come to a mutual agreement.

That's the legal position. I hope you are also considering the damage this will do to your professional reputation - you can certainly expect never do to any business with your future employer ever again, almost certainly never with the recruiter again and quite possibly never with anyone who knows anyone you've dealt with in the course of obtaining this role. Word gets around, and nobody wants to hire someone unreliable.

  • No one wants to hire someone who signs a contact after delaying a week and then tries to back out. Word will get out. Be careful taking that course of action.... – Mister Positive Mar 20 '18 at 11:02
  • A softer version of this, would be discussing that part of the contract. You can say you prefer to change that clause. Both parties might agree to new terms. While not optimal, it could save a lot a money/time. – Martijn Mar 20 '18 at 12:44
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Do you have a probation period in which special terms apply?

For example, you minght have a clause where you are not permitted to switch to a customer from your company, the no-competition clause. Usually, if you decide to leave within the probation period, clauses such as these don't apply.

Thats the sole reason why there is a probation period, you wish to evaluate how everything goes, and also for the company to see how you actually fit in, without much legal bindings.

The point is, if you have a probation period and the contract doesnt enforce all terms in the probation period, you can try to speak with them in that period to change the contract, or else you give a notice and leave without the problematic clause kicking in.

This is how things work in Germany, I dont know how is it in the UK but maybe you are in a similar situation.

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From the gov.uk website:

If a new employee changes their mind

If someone accepts an unconditional offer and then changes their mind, the employer can:

  • make them work out any contractual element of their notice
  • sue them for breach of contract

Whether they will do this is up to the company to decide. You'll need to liaise with the company what the next steps are and if they'll hold you to the current terms on the contract. If they do and you choose to not reciprocate, you are liable to be taken to court.

  • FWIW for my experience in the UK contracts have a short window after the start date where there's a very short notice period or none at all where either party can terminate the employment. Obviously this is after the start date but could be something to consider. – TheLethalCompany Mar 20 '18 at 12:49
  • Indeed, very true. However that does depend on the company and contract. a lot of the time they have a probation period that works both ways, but it's always best to check the contract – Draken Mar 20 '18 at 13:21
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From What to do if you’ve accepted the wrong job offer, at The Careers Blog:

Well, you have signed a contract so you might be in breach of that. Normally the employer can only take action on that breach if it has suffered a loss. It is hard to see what the loss might be. Your employment contract almost certainly specifies a notice period which is not usually longer than a month when you start. So, you could start, give a month’s notice and then leave without breaching the contract. In reality that would cost the employer a whole lot more than the cost to it if you withdraw prior to starting. It is very unlikely that the company will take action for breach of contract.

Do what is right for you, but do it as soon as you can and in person with apologies and humility. The organisation from which you are withdrawing is entitled to expect your honesty.

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