What happens if you offer the job to someone then change your mind, can you retract the job offer? Especially if someone more suitable comes along? 

If you manage to intercept the offer letter before the intended recipient receives it, then in reality no offer has been made.

In the likely event that it is not possible to do this, you are still in a strong position to retract an offer of employment before the individual you have offered the job to accepts it. You would have to act quickly and confirm, in writing to the individual, that your circumstances had changed and that you were no longer in a position to offer the job to them. Sending this letter by Special Delivery, where you can track receipt and guarantee delivery by a certain time, would be the best thing for you to do.

If the individual has already accepted the job, your position is not so straightforward. This does not mean that you cannot withdraw the offer, but it means that you may need to provide some compensation to the individual. This is because a contract of employment is formed at the time the individual accepts the offer as this carries with it an intention to be legally bound by the agreement. Your ending this contract could potentially constitute a breach of contract.

The situation may be more difficult if the individual has already resigned from his previous job in readiness to start work in your business.

The least that you may need to consider offering the individual to head off a breach of contract claim is the notice pay that he would have received had he actually started work for you. In most cases this is only likely to be a week, but in the case of more senior employees, this may be as high as three or six months.

It is important to remember that people who have not yet actually starting working for you, and even job applicants, can take you to tribunal for discrimination so you should not withdraw an offer of employment on the basis that the individual possesses a protected characteristic, for example, because of his race, age, disability etc.

Job offers can be made subject to certain conditions which, if not met, can lead to a withdrawal of the offer. This might be, for example, subject to satisfactory references; or criminal record checks; or evidence of eligibility to work in the UK. Although job offers can be made on condition of satisfactory health checks, it will not always be the case that you can simply rescind that offer once you become aware of a health condition which impedes someone’s ability to go a job where this is a disability.

If you need any further clarification on retracting job offers then please call our advice service on 0844 892 2772.