While coming to the end of my 12month contact with my current employer I’ve been attending a number of interviews.

About 1 week ago I received an offer from company A, the offer was decent, I signed the contract and handed in my notice.

Fast forward 1 week. I received an offer of employment from company B, this offer exceeded Company A in all areas, I said I would need time to think their offer over.

In hindsight I should have done the same for company A.

After sleeping on this I’ve somewhat decided I would like to work with company B however don’t know the right way, or even if there is a right way, to inform company A.

The contract signed states that during my probationary period I can terminate employment by giving one month’s notice. There isn’t anything else however contained within the document I can see that would cause issues.

What is the best approach to inform company A that I will be unable to start my role?

Edit1: This question is based upon UK companies

Edit2: It’s been flagged that this question is “off topic” therefore I have removed the section of this question that requests input from a contractual perspective. It's now purely just how best to approach company A with this news.

Update1: So over the last 24hrs the following has occurred.

I spoke with company B and turned down their offer stating my situation, 20 min later they called back with an increased the offer. (Note that playing the companies against one another was not my intention)

I’ve now spoke with company A and told them I will stand by the contract if they would like however I would hand my notice in on the first date of employment. They are running the details past HR however was told by recruitment that they don’t think the company will want me to start.

Update2: Just heard back from company A and they are able to release me from my contract to peruse the other role.

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to respond, the additional input really helped.

  • 2
    Once you sign the contract, you are bound to the one months notice. Though whether the company will hold you to that or not, is a different question. Often they'll waiver it, since it causes them less harm in the long run
    – Draken
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 8:21
  • 1
    Contract-specific legal questions are off-topic on this site.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 9:54
  • @JoeStrazzere Yes I've not started with A yet.
    – Karm
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 11:11
  • 1
    Sing them a song?
    – Lumberjack
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:54
  • Strictly speaking, you can give notice immediately, you do not need to wait for the first day of employment. In reality, no employer will want you to start, for you to leave a couple of weeks later. Commented Oct 14, 2016 at 22:15

4 Answers 4


You should have noted where in the world this is...

You are not unable to start your role. You are not willing to start your role because you found a better place. That's a different thing; don't lie to them. And you have signed a legally binding contract.

Now legally it seems you could start and give one months notice on the first day, then work your one month's notice. Which would be absolutely pointless for everyone. So you could tell them that you don't want to start and see what happens. Company A will probably be completely pissed off because of your behaviour, but that cannot be helped. The reasonable way for them to handle this is to tear up the contract. The unreasonable way would be to try to get money out of you for breach of contract (some people are unreasonable) which is unreasonable because you can force them to pay you one months salary for not much useful work.

The whole thing is a bit dangerous, because if you refuse to work your notice period, A can try to sue you for damages for not working, and if you do work your notice period, B might not be willing to wait for a month. So getting yourself into that situation is stupid. Don't do it again.

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond, it’s the UK this questions relates to. I didn’t expect this to occur however won’t be looking to get into this position again.
    – Karm
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 8:48
  • I didn't know employers can force anyone to work for them for any amount of time. I don't think the contract works that way. At least not in any developed countries that I know of.
    – Nelson
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 9:00
  • 7
    @Nelson They can't force you to work. They could attempt to reclaim costs for the OP's breach of contract if the OP decides not to show up. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 9:59
  • @PhilipKendall: Yes, in most jurisdictions (certainly in the UK), you cannot force someone to work, you can just sue for damages. I edited the text to reflect this.
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:03
  • @gnasher729: I edited the text to indicate A cannot force OP to work (they can only sue). Hope that's ok.
    – sleske
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:04

This is from gov.uk regarding a candidate declining an unconditional offer:

If someone accepts an unconditional offer and then changes their mind, the employer can:

  • make them work out any contractual element of their notice
  • sue them for breach of contract

This is a messy situation. My advice would be:

  • Seek legal advice
  • Speak with the employer that you signed the contract with. They may be reasonable. But don't say that you are rejecting the offer
  • If the employer is unreasonable, work the notice period only. I.e. give your notice in on day one
  • 9
    Although this is true - it's exceptionally rare, primarily because you can only sue for losses and they're next to impossible to prove in this situation. Plus, having an unhappy worker is bad news all round - there's no law that says you have to apply 100% effort even if you do work the month. His reputation will suffer, but one can almost guarantee that there won't be a legal battle here.
    – Dan
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 10:29

This depends on your cancellation clauses as referered by Pete in the comments.

If you have a so called trail period you can just say that the job aint for you and leave. Otherwise you will Need to discuss if you Need to sit out the notice period.

Do know that you will be "burning bridges" if you arent in a Trail Period and even then you might be playing with fire.

My advice sit out a couple of months and if you stil want to leave, do so but dont burn bridges because the grass Looks greener on the other side of the road.

  • Thanks for taking the time to respond. The trail period in this case still states one months’ notice and as @Draken has stated I am now bound to this. My intent isn’t to burn bridges however I know this exactly what will happen, which isn’t in my best interests either as I know a number of individuals would work at company A. You’re not the first person who has said just stick with the role and see what happens, I must admit its definitely back on the cards.
    – Karm
    Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 8:50
  • @MFraser Honestly if your only reason to go somewhere else is because it looks better then your only Card is to stick with it. Commented Oct 13, 2016 at 12:42

What is the best way to tell an employer, after signing a contract, you no longer wish to work for them?

Quickly, the sooner the better for all concerned.

As other answers mentioned there is possible legal issues and you did sign the contract. However I think these can fairly safely be discounted. Either way, the sooner you know where you stand the better for you. And, the sooner the company knows, while they might be upset, realistically the better for them as well. It gives them more time to find a replacement.

I wouldn't even give them the reason why, I'd just say I'm terribly sorry but due to my personal situation I cannot take up the position.

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