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I live in the UK and accepted a conditional offer. All my reference checks have come back clear and I am now waiting for a start date.

However, I have been waiting more than a week despite being told multiple times that the manager would send me my unconditional offer and start date on x date.

The person in question that needs to contact me in regards to this has been ignoring HR onboarding team’s emails and my own emails. This is causing me great anxiety as literally everything has been completed and the manager just needs to give me the official contract but they are taking too much time & HR at the company told me there is nothing much they can do than to email the manager again.

Unfortunately I did already resign my current position as I was confirmed with the new company that everything came back clear and I would be emailed the following day with the contact. (Please do not criticise as I know this wasn’t the best move, however my current company said I can retract my resignation if needs be).

Should I apply to other jobs? If I apply to other jobs and get an offer would it be legal for me to accept?

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    Why are we certain that the person is ignoring you rather than occupied dealing with other work or non-work related things that might have come up? Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 12:13
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    Is "the person in question" your future manager (or your manager's manager, etc.), or just some random manager in HR? If the former, are you sure you still want to work with them?
    – Petr
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 7:00
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    citizensadvice.org.uk/work/getting-a-job/… You can also check directly with them so get more local advice. From what it says there, it seems like as long as you met the conditions the contract should have already started so you have some rights
    – bracco23
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 10:56
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    "... despite being told multiple times that the manager would send me my unconditional offer and start date on x date." - Do you have this in writing? And is "x date" in the past or in the future?
    – marcelm
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:53
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    Just what the conditions are of the conditional offer is somewhat relevant. Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 1:46

5 Answers 5

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Should I apply to other jobs? If I apply to other jobs and get an offer would it be legal for me to accept?

You should never stop the job search until you have a signed contract with zero contingencies. You can continue to apply and interview.

You are currently in limbo. You have a deadline for your old job, but it appears they may allow you to stay; and you don't have the new job.

So keep looking. When they send you an offer letter with zero contingencies, then you make a decision.

If you decide to go back to the job you just resigned from, remember that your position there is now at greater risk. They know you want to leave. So keep looking.

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    You should never stop the job search until you have a signed contract with zero contingencies. That's not really true because you may start at a job pending references or security clearance, or with a trial period. But you should normally have a contract setting out the contingencies.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 8:49
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    @StuartF If you start working with contingencies, then you don't have an offer without contingencies Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:22
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    @mhoran_psprep So if you are on at-will contract and the contract doesn't have an explicit notice period, you should never stop looking for a new job? Because an at-will contract is never zero contingencies. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 13:29
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    @user1937198 It would be wise to keep your ears open, I would think.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 15:02
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    The last paragraph here is critical to remember. Your current employer knows you want to leave, knows you're a risk for leaving at any time, and, if they're smart will already be looking for your replacement and will continue to do so even if you choose to stay. Once said replacement is found, OP might just become redundant and out on his ear whether a replacement position has been found or not.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 16:42
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This is causing me great anxiety

Relax. While this is indeed annoying and certainly inconsiderate on the manager's part, it's not that unusual. Company processes can be cumbersome and convoluted and people get busy all the time.

Unfortunately I did already resign my current position

That was obviously a mistake. You do NOT resign until you have a fully signed unconditional offer in hand.

Should I apply to other jobs?

Yes. You may not need it, but there is nothing wrong with making contingency plans.

If I apply to other jobs and get an offer would it be legal for me to accept?

Yes. What you have is obviously not a binding offer, otherwise you wouldn't be in this position

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    "You do NOT resign until you have a fully signed unconditional offer in hand." I see this advice a lot on the internet but it seems at odds with my experience of real life. I have more than one friend to whom this happened: (1) Stayed for years in jobs they disliked, because they were following this advice, but couldn't fully invest themselves in a proper job search since they were already busy with their current job (plus family and other life duties). (2) Finally decided to resign anyway. (3) In less than a month, they found and got hired at a better job (more fulfilling and better paid).
    – Stef
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:24
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    @Stef It ultimately depends on your personal situation -- can you afford to be out of work while you continue the job search? If not, don't count your chickens.... The general advice assumes people need a regular paycheck.
    – Barmar
    Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 14:29
  • @Stef I would expect that there is a certain cultural component to it as well. While I can relate to the (very much privileged) story you are recounting, there are countries where living paycheck to paycheck while sitting on a pile of credit card debt, car and mortgage payments is very much a reality. Missing a payment can severely upend your life, to the point of becoming homeless.
    – fgysin
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 13:45
  • @stef sounds like a different problem.
    – Mdev
    Commented Aug 4, 2023 at 9:14
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Assuming you haven't signed anything, a "conditional offer" means nothing at all (on both sides, as you are unfortunately discovering); you are legally free to do whatever you like.

(Pedantically, a contract doesn't have to be signed under UK law; if both sides act as if a contract is in place - e.g. they send you a contract, and you turn up to work and they pay you even though you never signed the contract - then it may be deemed a contract is in place. That's clearly not the case here though).

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I believe your position isn't too bad. Yes, as you already said, you happened to resign too quick but it's understandable when you were promised to receive the contract the next day. You held them to the standard you hold yourself up to and therefore trusted their word. Just accept this as a life lesson and don't beat yourself up about it.

The reason I think you're not in a too bad of a situation is because your current workplace - the one that knows you and your work - extended the offer for you to cancel your resignation at any time. That tells me you're so good your current company could set their pride on the side without hesitation with hopes you'd stay. I don't know what you do, but you've done it well.

That being said, you started the job search for a reason. It's nice that your current company appreciates you (at least in this moment), but don't stop looking for new opportunities. Also, if the new company wakes from its slumber - don't hesitate to ask questions. Really evaluate if you still feel comfortable working there.

As for legality - if you haven't signed anything, you don't owe them anything.

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So the existing answers give you a good idea of what you should do in this situation. However, none of them seem to answer your actual question about the legality of withdrawing from an offer, so I'll do that.


If we assume that your acceptance of the offer constitutes a contract to become employed then we can probably also assume that your agreement to the notice period within that offer is also in effect. This isn't as much of a stretch as it sounds and has some precedent.

In this situation, you would clearly be in-breach of that contract if you withdrew. However, breaching a contract in-and-of itself isn't a crime and fundamentally, there's little the potential employer could do about it.

In the absolute worst case scenario, they could sue you for damages for this breach. However, they'd have to demonstrate actual damages incurred from your withdrawal, which is very unlikely to be possible unless you're in a very senior position. It's also terrible from a PR perspective to be suing perspective employees.

So, in conclusion, you're fine from a legal perspective to withdraw from an offer. The same actually implies to leaving a company without serving your notice period. You are, however, probably going to burn a bridge.

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    There is no way whatsoever that what the OP describes would be a binding contract under UK law - in particular, there is no contract. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 11:05
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    @PhilipKendall - "I have accepted a conditional offer", that's a contract under UK law. There was an offer, acceptance of the offer, consideration, and a clear intention to establish legal relations. A signature, or written terms, aren't necessary to form a legally binding contract, it just makes it much, much, easier to enforce. Since the question is explicitly about the legality of reneging on such a contract, my answer addresses it perfectly. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:52
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    There's no agreed start date, there's no agreed renumeration, there's no agreed T&Cs. No binding contract under UK law IMO - you are welcome to disagree of course. Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 12:57
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    What sort of job offer doesn't have agreed compensation? Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 13:37
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    The same sort of job offer that doesn't have a start date? Commented Aug 2, 2023 at 17:06

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