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I know it is not ethical to do so (I mean withdrawing a job offer by me as an employee after having accepted it) and I won't be proud of it but my interests are more important now.
So I got a job offer in the UK via email, I signed it and sent back the 'Acceptance of Offer of Employment' form which is not the employment contract as far as I know.
I got another offer which is better so I am planning to tell the HR person that I wouldn't want to work for them

I am just wondering if I can safely do it by law or should I start working for the company and leave them during the probation period? Can I terminate this job offer without any consequence?

  • Prior to accepting were you shown a contract? – Twyxz Jun 5 at 8:44
  • You you have no moral or ethical obligation, and unless you signed a legally binding contract, you have no legal obligation. – joeqwerty Jun 5 at 11:32
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    I think the best thing you could do in this situation is just talk to them (being aware of the legal situations pointed out in answers) You are most likely to get a more amicable outcome in that situation if you let them down gently - but don't feel under obligation to explain in any detail why. "My circumstances have changed such that I won't be taking up the offer" something like that – Smock Jun 5 at 11:46
  • I see, thanks for help! – Engine Reaction Jun 5 at 12:37
  • Is there a date of commencement on the contract? – Smock Jun 5 at 12:41
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By accepting a job offer (and assuming it was either unconditional or all conditions have been met) then you've entered into a binding employment contract - you can change your mind of course however the company can legally:

  • make you work out your contractual notice period

  • sue you for breach of contract (if you don't do the above)

In practice of course both of the above are vanishingly rare - contacting them and letting them know you'd like to withdraw is usually sufficient. You will probably burn bridges with the company and with any recruitment agents involved in the process of course but such is life.

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    This is the best interpretation of what has happened. Unlike the US, the UK doesn’t have at-will employment — so it may not be safe to assume that there will be no consequences for reneging on an employment agreement. – Jay Jun 5 at 11:26
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    In practice though, it would be quite rare for a company to do either of these - it's not in either parties interest. Also - if you don't work your notice period, you just won't get paid - they would only usually sue you for breach of contract if they had paid you more than you were owed. (it would be hard to prove there are any damages) – Smock Jun 5 at 11:41
  • Hi @motosubatsu, so best case scenario is that I let them know and we agreed that no point to start working, worst case scenario is that I have to start working for them and leave during the probation period, is that correct? – Engine Reaction Jun 5 at 12:31
  • @Smock Basically yes - worst case is you'd have to just resign on day one and work your notice period but it's remarkably unlikely to ever come to that. – motosubatsu Jun 5 at 12:36
  • I still don't think the contract is valid until the commencement date though - until your actual start date, you are not an actual employee. No money, good or services have changed hands at that point. I think up until that point you should still be able to cancel it without legal liability. I would still recommend trying to exit amicably by talking though, and checking legality with a solicitor if they kick up a fuss. – Smock Jun 5 at 12:47
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You can choose to not start beforehand if you like.

You signed a letter of intent, not a contract. Signing the offer letter you received mainly certifies that you've received and accept the offer, but you aren't under any contractual obligation to start the job until you've signed a contract with a given start date and location.

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    This - OP, do it soonest to give them time to contact candidate #2 instead. If you applied through an agency tell them instead - they will kick and scream, as they'll be losing commission, unless the other preferred candidates went through them. Their protests can be ignored. – Justin Jun 5 at 9:50
  • Their protests can be ignored. and there will be protests, but you're under no obligation to be there. Remember that. – Jay Gould Jun 5 at 10:07
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    @JayGould In the UK accepting a job offer is the same as entering into a binding employment contract – motosubatsu Jun 5 at 10:07
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    @JayGould Yes, yes it is that you might sign a subsequent employment contract document doesn't change that fact. – motosubatsu Jun 5 at 10:13
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    Although in certain situations you could argue that no contract actually exists unless money has changed hands or work been carried out - not sure if that applies here. – Smock Jun 5 at 11:50
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I am just wondering if I can safely do it by law or should I start working for the company and leave them during the probation period?

Since you haven't signed a contract, then legally I'm not aware of any reason why you can't change your mind.

Can I terminate this job offer without any consequence?

That's a different question, and the answer is almost certainly "no". You've messed around the company giving you the offer, as well as any recruitment agency you may have gone through. You can almost certainly write off working with either party in future.

  • Thanks, I am aware that I won't be liked by the company, I just want to know if I can have some more serious problem (e.g. being sued). – Engine Reaction Jun 5 at 12:36

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