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I've received an attractive job offer from a company that has in the past implemented hiring freezes due to covid related events. There is currently a lot of hysteria around the new covid variant and I'm concerned they'll bring in a hiring freeze again. I haven't signed the contract yet and haven't given notice to my current employer. If I sign this week and they decide to bring in a hiring freeze in a week or two do they have a right to retract an offer after contracts are signed? Would I have any rights considering I'll be essentially leaving my current job and burning bridges with them?

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    If the question is "Can they" you'll need to specify a location, though it's largely moot since even in areas where signed offers have legal value, you could still end up laid off a few weeks after starting if they try to retract the offer and you insist. Asking about how to bring this up with the prospective employer may be more useful for you though I doubt there's any ironclad guarantees. But to be clear: are you concerned over the company's solvency or about a hiring freeze affecting unconfirmed offers (which would be rare)?
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 28, 2021 at 22:21
  • @Lilienthal the company is solvent, I'm just concerned about a hiring freeze that they may bring in as a precaution. This is in Australia.
    – solarflare
    Nov 28, 2021 at 22:27

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To some extent, you're asking the wrong question - even in countries with fairly high levels of employee protection, the difference between "retract the signed offer" and "terminate your employment on the first day" is pretty much moot. If you're worried that your potential new employer might be going to reduce headcount, the answer is most likely not to join them.

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  • Its not about financial difficulties, last year they implemented a hiring freeze as a precaution, I'm concerned they might decide to join in the public hysteria over omicron and do that again right after I've signed and given notice.
    – solarflare
    Nov 28, 2021 at 23:08
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    @solarflare Fair enough, but it doesn't really matter why they decide not to continue with your employment - it doesn't change the fundamentals of the answer. Nov 28, 2021 at 23:19
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As Phillip said, you can be "let go" on your first day.

Generally in Australia people are on probation for some period of time after they start.

My recommendation is you get in touch with them and confirm the starting dates. You don't have to mention the hiring freezes.

You could also ask for the start date to be pushed back a little due to the developing situation.

Regarding the "hysteria", some of it is fear, and of course, some of it is the reality the government may bring in restrictions that may make training you in your first few weeks very difficult.

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  • We have a verbally agreed starting date. I was thinking of asking them about any potential hiring freezes and if so what would happen.
    – solarflare
    Nov 29, 2021 at 4:45
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Instead of focusing on legality, which is largely moot, instead focus on mitigation: what can you do to prevent it from happening or reduce the damage if does?

You might require a change in your contract or you might make sure that your parting with your current company is on good terms.

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  • What change in the contract could help?
    – solarflare
    Nov 29, 2021 at 4:43
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    It's unlikely they will make a change to the contract, but you would put in a minimum specified term. Nov 29, 2021 at 9:34
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    @solarflare: most obviously you could start work and then take leave while you work your notice period or a penalty for not starting.
    – jmoreno
    Nov 29, 2021 at 12:55

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