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I have been offered a job at a company I interviewed with today. They want me to start next week.

As I am on unemployment, I have no right to decline the job because of the conditions of unemployment benefit. If I did not accept then I lose the benefits and if I attempted to hide the offer it would be breaking the law. So have verbally consented to starting. (And of course, any job is better than unemployment.)

While this should mean the end of my job search. I am not convinced about working for this company having learnt more about the "package" on offer today.

The offer is an open ended temporary position with a salary right at the bottom of my requirements. In addition, the shift pattern is quite demanding, unsocial and different to what the recruitment agency who put me forward told me to expect. The role itself is what I was looking to do which right now seems the only positive beyond getting off unemployment.

In the meantime, earlier this week, I met with a different recruitment agency - one that I have worked for previously and had a positive experience with. They have put me forward for a job which I have an interview for on Friday. Out of the two positions, it is a clear favourite.

It is a permanent position, more favourable hours and salary and clear job progression and development programs. If I'm fortunate to be offered a position with them then I feel it would be foolish to turn it down as the only downside is that the position does not start for 6 weeks.

And yet, I've accepted a job offer today. So ethically speaking, it seems wrong to interview and take a slot which they could use for someone else and also wrong to start a job on Monday only to potentially leave for another offer.

With the damage I've already done to my career through my last job, I cannot afford to damage it further but I'm really conflicted at present as to my best route forward.

Update - 02/10 Today I interviewed with Position B. It is exactly what I hoped it would be. I'm in the final pool of candidates having passed all their tests and will hear on Monday if I was successful. I am hoping so.

In the meantime, Position A has been dragging its feet confirming my start date and now I do not believe I will be starting on Monday after all. They are treating me very unprofessionally and yet I'm powerless to withdraw from the role because of my unemployment benefits.

marked as duplicate by GreenMatt, gnat, scaaahu, IDrinkandIKnowThings, mcknz Oct 6 '15 at 22:45

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  • "I have no right to decline the job" Meaning that you can't afford to remain unemployed or you are legally forced to accept or lose benefits? – Lilienthal Sep 30 '15 at 18:07
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    legally forced to accept or lose benefits (but the affordability also applies.) Similarly, if I do not disclose to them that I had a job offer and they later find out then I'll have broken the law. – raining hail Sep 30 '15 at 18:16
  • What country? And does your contract have a trial period? – freekvd Sep 30 '15 at 18:17
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    My advice, such that it is: get off the dole, take the job. Keep looking for work elsewhere. Meanwhile you have a job and are paying the bills. Find another job you like? Interview and get hired. Taking a job with a company isn't a lifetime contract. (picking nits here: the title doesn't really reflect the body here any more.) – CGCampbell Sep 30 '15 at 18:29
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    There is no ethical dilemma where you are required to accept a job because you are on unemployment. – CGCampbell Sep 30 '15 at 22:17
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There is nothing unethical about getting a better job. What you are doing is exactly what any rational person would do in your position. The law was poorly written to encourage this type of behavior - thats not your fault. All you need do is offer to continue to serve out a notice period once you get your new job.

Doing this will likely mean you will never work with that company or recruiter again. If the loss of those professional contacts is acceptable, then take the better job.

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It's a bit of an underhanded move, but your situation doesn't really give you a better alternative.

When a company offers you a job, this means they are also sending away other possible candidates. They've likely invested time in this, and decided you're the best available option for them.

It is not entirely unbelievable that you are a good candidate because you have no current employment. This makes you less expensive, since you don't really have a position for negotiation. If you feel this is the case, your soon-to-be employer should be well aware of how one sided this offer is, and should not be too surprised if you leave relatively soon.

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    I'd agree with you that it's a little bit douchy and the OP's hands are tied; but then again, its temporary, the pay is low, shift pattern is demanding, and an unsocial environment. Honestly, if there isn't already high turnover for that role; the company kinda has it coming. – Jim B Sep 30 '15 at 21:16
  • And; the better potential job doesn't start for 6 weeks; which should put OP firmly in his/her probationary period. So, "sorry it didn't work out, just wasn't a good fit, best of luck in the future" isn't as douchey as starting on a monday and quitting on friday – Jim B Sep 30 '15 at 21:19
  • @JimB This prompts the question, if I get the second job, should I continue with the first just so I'm getting a paycheck and then quit right before the start date? Seems unethical because I'll be still in training for the role and there's no point to train me for a role I won't be doing – raining hail Sep 30 '15 at 21:31
  • I'm in the US; so it's customary here for "2 weeks notice". I know UK has different labor laws, and your employment contract may specify otherwise; but if it was me; I'd start the job, work a month, put in my 2 weeks, and then start the new one. No need to torch a bridge in gas and set it aflame for no reason – Jim B Sep 30 '15 at 21:38
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    @freekvd Don't want to put words in your mouth, but how about instead of saying d------ move, say it's a bit underhanded? – Kai Oct 2 '15 at 18:38
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Given your position, I don't see it as unprofessional or unethical to accept the position, provided you continue to act in professional manner around the situation. That is, if you end up working in your new position, give them the proper courtesy, work as you would in a job you actually want, and give them a proper two weeks notice.

It's an unfortunate situation, with pretty much no good solution. Yes, it will possibly cause a loss of time and resources for the company, but I think anyone would understand that it's not an option for you to lose your unemployment benefits, and also it's completely illogical to be loyal to a company you've worked very little for, passing up an objectively better position, just because you feel bad that they spent time and money on you.

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Frankly, if job A wanted you to work for them permanently, they should be offering a full-time, permanent position. But, you've said they're offering an open-ended temporary job - meaning it seems like they know people might want to leave eventually for something permanent and/or they don't want people on their payroll long-term.

If/when you do get a job that suits you better, you can simply say that you decided to leave because you wanted a job that was permanent and not temporary. And you're sorry about the timing.

Ethically, if you were comparing two permanent jobs, I'd say it would be a little unprofessional. But since you're comparing a temporary job to a permanent position, the comparison isn't the same if ultimately you're looking for the latter and not the former.

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How professional/ethical is it to verbally accept a job but want to interview and work elsewhere?

Completely unprofessional and very, very unethical. When you accept a job offer you indicate that you are willing to work for that company, in that position and with the conditions outlined in the offer. Reneging on a job offer is bad. Leaving a job only a few days-months in is worse. Starting a job knowing full well that you intend to leave is ten times worse. You are essentially acting in bad faith and if this gets out, it's a black mark on your career and it can ruin your professional reputation.

You often hear the advice that you can get away with something like this once in your career or once every dozen years or so. If you already have such a black mark on your resume or your reputation was otherwise damage you do not want to risk adding to that. It could be the difference between "Well, I'm not sure about this guy because of X but he otherwise looks like a strong candidate" and your application not even being considered.

Note that my answer assumes that these are career-building white-collar office positions you're considering. There can be more leeway in other industries and you can probably get away with unprofessional behaviour more easily there but it's still not a good idea.


Now, that should hopefully answer your initial question. Now for your actual situation. While we can't advise you on legal matters, your choices seem to boil down to:

  • accept the job and commit to staying there for at least a year, possibly longer if you need to build up your resume in light of past mistakes/gaps
  • accept the job, continue looking
    • get an offer from the other company: consider if it's worth leaving your new job for an unknown newer one (which may itself turn out to suck) and risk further damaging your reputation
    • don't get the offer: you still have a job
  • decline the job, continue looking and lose unemployment benefits
    • get an offer from the other company: you now have a job after X weeks/months without pay
    • don't get the offer: you are now unemployed without benefits

Only you can really decide what level of risk you are happy with here. A lot depends on your industry and whether it's likely to get out that you accepted an offer in bad faith and ended up leaving. It's up to you to the cost-benefit analysis here.

Finally, I'm expecting comments that boil down to "companies don't care about their employees, why should an employee care about his company". That is true to some extent, though much less so in the UK than in the US due to at-will employment, but my advice is still about what's best for the employee as you need to consider the lasting damage that choices like this can do to your career prospects.

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    yeesh! I take it you"ve never seen how job seeker's allowance works in the UK. the unemployment office will set you up on a job they feel you are capable of (which may be nothing to do with your experience or interests), you need to attend, try and get the job and accept if offered, no matter how low the salary/rate is or you are cut off from benefits. I was in a similar position when made redundant by a bank at the height of the downturn. I had to sign off to avoid being forced into becoming a management trainee at a carpet retailer at 25% of what I earned previously.Downvoted – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 30 '15 at 18:50
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    I agree it is unprofessional, but it's not necessarily unethical. If you offer someone bare minimum, you won't likely get a happy candidate, I don't think any employer will expect the employee to be happy about it. – freekvd Sep 30 '15 at 19:25
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    @TheWanderingDevManager The first part of my answer was voted before OP clarified that in the comments and applies to the sane parts of the world where those shenanigans aren't at play. The second part of my answer applies to the OP's situation and is valid even if that's not what OP wants to hear. If you want to downvote me because of your own country's inept unemployment benefits that's your choice but don't come at me all high and mighty because of it. – Lilienthal Sep 30 '15 at 19:39
  • Not my country only an observer, check my profile I'm a Canadian. Not coming "high and mighty" just always pays to find out the context before wading in with an answer. – The Wandering Dev Manager Sep 30 '15 at 21:15
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    @Lilienthal sorry, removed my downvote, I didn't realize that the part about the unemployment benefits was only added to the question after you answered – Carson63000 Sep 30 '15 at 23:51

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