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I am on unemployment, and in the UK, which means I cannot turn down an offer of employment without sufficient cause or my benefits will stop.

I had a job offer made last week via a recruitment agency. I was told, with great enthusiasm, that their client wanted me to start asap. Although my enthusiasm for the role was more lukewarm, I accepted. I was due to start on Monday 5th.

It did not happen and its a strong possibility their second start date, Monday 12th, is going to pass without me starting.

They have now decided they want paperwork from me for background checks that does not and never existed. It requires the unemployment agency to send me a custom letter which will not arrive until end of next week. I have been unable to find an alternative they will accept.

I have continued my job search while all this has been pending and now hearing about interviews next week. I've accepted but feel uncomfortable because if I then withdraw (due to starting), I'm burning my bridges with several companies over a lukewarm job offer.

So, here's the first part of my question. When would be appropriate to withdraw from this offer?

The second part relates to how I would withdraw.

I have no proof but believe it is the company not the agency which is causing the issue. The agency also manages recruitment for other clients doing similar work to the job offer.

If I am to withdraw then if at all possible, I'd want to be able to then be considered by them for other roles that they have to offer.

Is there even a way to achieve that?

Update - The lukewarm job offer has turned around and said I can start on Monday after all leaving me with a very tough decision to make and only a couple of hours to do so. I've never disliked the idea of a job so much before I started it but I wonder how much of this is down to new job anxiety.

  • @JoeStazzere Actually no. I've spoken to my unemployment advisor and sufficient cause actually exists for other reasons. I mentioned my benefits to put the question into context as to why I accepted in the first place. – raining hail Oct 8 '15 at 11:08
  • @JoeStrazzere Because its still a job. Regardless of the circumstances, I'm not so blinded that I don't realise that being paid will be better than unemployment. – raining hail Oct 8 '15 at 11:20
  • Don't withdraw from other interviews until you have started work. Things like funding being slow to materialize or department restructuring do happen. If they are in the middle of the hiring process when one of these troubles pops up they may stall while working through these things and there may or may not be a position once they are complete. – Myles Oct 8 '15 at 13:36
  • re "background checks that does not and never existed" what do you mean by that? Most uk companies don't do serious BG checks unless your going for security clearance – Pepone Oct 10 '15 at 23:54
  • To fill the gaps in my CV, they wanted proof of my most recent benefits. The benefits letter I provided as evidence wasn't sufficient for their needs for some reason and I had to request a different type from the unemployment peeps. Somehow, they've got past it because I still haven't provided it to them. – raining hail Oct 12 '15 at 0:12
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To answer your basic question: It is appropriate to withdraw at any stage prior to signing a contract, if you feel that the arrangement no longer makes sense.

You have the additional complication of potentially losing your state benefits, which I won't attempt to discuss here (I'm certainly no legal expert, so I have no idea what constitutes sufficient cause... although from what I hear of the Job Centre, anything short of decapitation probably won't count)

So I'll focus on the bridge burning:

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules, or even soft and slow rules, on whether the company will be okay with you withdrawing: a lot depends on their attitude, policy, procedures, how they perceive the withdrawal. It depends on whether the hiring is at the discretion of the MD, or whether there's a formal process, and it depends how urgently they need the position to be filled etc.

You have no real way to know whether withdrawing will burn your bridges, so start from the assumption that any withdrawal will burn your bridges and exclude you from working at that company in future. If that turns out to not be the case then great, but if you base your decision on the assumption that it will, you at least won't be disappointed.

Other factors you may wish to consider are whether you would be better off accepting this job, then withdrawing or quitting at a later stage if you get a better offer: this will be even more risky in terms of future employment with the company, but may suit your situation. It's not ideal, but since you have to work, may lose your JSA if you withdraw, and have no idea if you will receive other offers, it may be the best option for you.

Once you've decided that you definitely wish to withdraw, it's much simpler: you withdraw as professionally and politely as possible, and hope that they don't get upset.

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When would be appropriate to withdraw from this offer?

In this particular case, it's appropriate to withdraw from this offer when you have a better solid offer on the table.

You already accepted the offer, so you essentially promised them that you would work for them. Something has happened to put the job start on hold, and you have been interviewing elsewhere and have found other jobs that are more attractive and which you would prefer over this one.

Based on your earlier question, it appears that you have been looking for a reason to reject this job offer while retaining your unemployment benefits and finding a better offer. It sounds like you have your reason now, so things seemed to have worked out for you.

Get a better offer from another company, then cancel your acceptance of this one.

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You are unemployed. In general unemployment benefits are not equal to what you can earn, plus they are limited in duration.

If you reject the current offer it could put your unemployment benefits at risk; plus in a few weeks time their offer, with no other prospects may not seem so bad.

I would keep working on turning the current job offer into a real job. Complete all the paperwork as they require, and keep it moving forward. The fact that they gave starting dates, but also required a background investigation to be completed is cause for concern.

At the same time I would keep applying, and interviewing with other companies. In some places the act of applying and interviewing keeps the unemployment benefits flowing. Actively looking is the only way to find a better position.

If you are lucky you will get a better offer before the starting date for the other company. If that doesn't happen you will still have that one offer in place.

If you end up with no other job offers, start work at the new place, but keep looking. Be mindful of any contract clauses which will layout notice periods, and any probationary period.

Cancelling interviews because you have signed a great offer, or even dropping out after interviews is a common occurrence. Employers expect that you are applying at different places, and that with each of them you are at different stages in the apply-interview-re-interview continuum. It doesn't burn bridges with them.

Regarding eventually rejecting the offer you do have. If they know you are unemployed they may feel that they can underpay you because you are getting desperate. They have to also know that in those cases the new employee has no reason to view the position as long term, and will keep looking even after the start date.

  • Just to add a detail: unemployment benefits in the UK aren't limited in duration (as long as the claimant is actively seeking work and fulfilling certain requirements in that regard) – Jon Story Oct 8 '15 at 10:57

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