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  • I luckily got a graduate job to start in September and signed a contract (with a clause specifying my September start date).
  • They have since emailed me to say that they are moving the start date to January due to things apparently out of their control.

  • I have started to look at other permanent jobs as a result - since I need money to pay bills/live, and applied for this job specifically for a September start date, and have a couple of interviews coming up.

  • I'm just wondering, is what I am doing unprofessional? I haven't started yet (so not technically employed,right?), and they can't expect me to just hold on till then without looking elsewhere? What about from a legal standpoint, can I turn down the contract after signing?

closed as off-topic by Lilienthal, Dan Pichelman, gnat, Masked Man, PeteCon Sep 12 '16 at 15:13

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    Get a lawyer. Depending on the contract it may either not be legal for them to move the start date or it may not be legal for you to get another job meanwhile or both. – Magisch Sep 12 '16 at 12:00
  • Yeah, is this really a "contract"? If you have just signed an offer you are not obligated to anything and if you are in an at will employment country you are not obligated even if you've started. If you have taken money from them already or really have some locally enforceable contract that's one thing, but that would be atypical. You may want to look a t it and explain more. – mxyzplk Sep 12 '16 at 12:35
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    VTC Unclear. First you need to clarify whether you signed an actual contract or not. If you just accepted an offer that's something entirely different from signing an employment contract. The odds of you having a contract are infinitesimal if you're in the US, and if you do have one it's likely void if they change the start date (but that's a legal question). – Lilienthal Sep 12 '16 at 12:38
  • Talk with a lawyer. Depending on the country, you might have certain tax breaks on your first job that might be voided if you get another job. – Rui F Ribeiro Sep 12 '16 at 13:21
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    Why has this been closed??? This is not company-specific. The core of this has to do with OP's reliance on a contract, and the employer's constructive breach. AND -- contrary to prior comments, one party deciding after-the-fact that they don't like the terms of a contract they've signed ("buyer's remorse") DOES NOT void the contract, but actually might allow the other party to seek damages. – Xavier J Sep 12 '16 at 15:17
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You need to consult an employment lawyer before you do anything here - we can't and won't give legal advice here. Things you need to ask the lawyer would be:

  • Can they legally move the start date without your consent?
  • If so, are they liable to pay you until then?
  • Can you legally work for another employer meanwhile (depending on the contract, you could not)

Whether any or all of these apply is very specific to employment law where you're located, and very dependant on the specific writing of the contract.

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I would not reach for a lawyer at this point. They are expensive and I would only use them as a last resort.

Instead I would hold fire and wait for an offer from another company that starts earlier. It is unreasonable for them to move the start date and this has effectively broken the contract.

if you get an offer in the meantime - just email them back and saying that the later start date is unacceptable as you have financial commitments. Just thank them for the offer and wish them all the best in getting a suitable candidate in the new year.

If they come back then perhaps use the legal route.

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    It is unreasonable for them to move the start date and this has effectively broken the contract. - this may have effectively broken the contract, and that's exactly why the OP should consult a lawyer immediately. Absolutely do not present them with a fait accompli and then hope the legal route pans out for you later: that's a good way to potentially lose two opportunities, or lose one and tie yourself into another where you've just poisoned the relationship before you even start. – Jon Story Sep 12 '16 at 12:16
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    @JonStory lawyers are a bottomless money drain, best to let the other side go to the expense if they feel so inclined until you absolutely have to. – Kilisi Sep 12 '16 at 12:22
  • @Kilisi I'm not sure what experience you have of lawyers, but in my experience it's possible to book a simple consultation for a sensible fixed price – Jon Story Sep 12 '16 at 12:27
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    @JonStory Please avoid using code markup to format quotes. You can use italics and quotation marks instead. – Lilienthal Sep 12 '16 at 12:39
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Legalities aside.

is what I am doing unprofessional?

No, it's not unprofessional, in fact it may be the only practicable solution. If I really wanted that particular job I would also look for temporary work to tide me over until January, but I would still attend interviews for permanent work and take a better offer if it came my way.

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I would post a similar question to this on the legal.SE, include your Country of Origin as well, they may have a better start point as far as the legality. Without that there is little help on that end - moving the start date may be due to the Client having a funding issue, or some other reasons which may or may not make it a breach - it is too murky for us to identify.

As for the Professional part of it, there is nothing unprofessional about it on your end - just theirs. Even for scope creep of a project, which can and will happen at inopportune times, the contracting agency should still be wary of that - especially in the terms of a 4 month shift of a start date.

I would be looking for a different job in your place either way, hopefully you can figure out something with the contracting agency to get you out of your mess, or having to consult a lawyer/legal counsel to do so. Makes turning the wheels searching for a new job pretty pointless if you couldn't even leave to a new employer.

The only implications are if you get out of this contract, you will be potentially burning a bridge, definitely with the contracting agency if they hold a grudge, perhaps with the client if you breaking contract (even though it was their fault) will cause a staffing issue now (provided they know you're coming in advance). Reputations in your area of work is always a huge factor, I just hope for your sake being a graduate and starting out that you do not garner any negative reputation for looking out for your best interests.

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