Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

Can a written job offer be retracted?

The joy and relief associated with receiving a written job offer quickly sours if an employer withdraws or retracts it.

The outcome of such an occurrence largely depends on whether the job offer made to a prospective employee was on a conditional or unconditional basis. When further action ensues, the employer and employee should keep a full record of documentation exchanged between both parties. Under most circumstances, both parties can reach a suitable outcome without the need for legal action.

Offers of employment

Although employers frequently make offers of employment verbally, providing a written offer helps in resolving or avoiding potential disputes.

Any offers withdrawn after the prospective employee accepts them constitute a breach of contract even if employment has not officially started. If a job applicant chooses to start a case at an employment tribunal, instances of discrimination, problems within the recruiting process and breach of contract claims may arise. An offer of employment only becomes a binding contract when the applicant accepts it. Although accepted offers of employment are legally binding, always insist on having the offer made in writing.

Determining acceptance

Acceptance of an offer of employment takes the form of a positive act such as returning a letter of acceptance, agreeing a start date or handing in a period of notice with a current employer.

As long as an applicant makes a statement of intention, withdrawing the offer of employment becomes a breach of contract. Offering the job verbally without the applicant accepting it does not constitute a binding contract.

Withdrawing offers

When an applicant takes positive steps resulting in a binding contract between both parties, the employer may still withdraw an offer of employment and the correct course of actions often prevents breach of contract claims through a tribunal. The applicant retains the right to sue for damages in the event of a withdrawn offer so compensation becomes a consideration.


Usually, the levels of compensation relate to the notice period the applicant would receive had they started work and in most cases, payments are minimal.

Typically, a 1-week notice period applies on probationary periods whenever a new employee starts work. Compensation becomes more costly in circumstances where a business makes an offer of employment for a senior role. Senior employees enjoy longer periods of notice and these frequently extend from between 3 and 6 months.

Employer rights

An agreed offer of employment accepted by an applicant who subsequently changes their mind can see employers enforcing their right to making that applicant work out any contractual obligations defined in their period of notice agreement. The employer also has the right to sue for breach of contract but this happens rarely. Conditional job offers are not binding contracts and employers may withdraw an offer if the applicant fails a medical or provides unsatisfactory references.