Can my employer withdraw a job offer if I already have a contract?

As soon as you have been offered a job, and have accepted it, this forms a basic legal contract between you and your new employer, even if you haven't yet received anything in writing. Often job offers are expressed to be subject to receipt of 'satisfactory' references. However, if the prospective employer doesn't mention this at the time, it can't add this condition later on.

If an offer that has been accepted is then withdrawn, your employer has 'breached' the contract. It may be possible for you to sue your new employer as a result, particularly if you have suffered loss because you have left your previous job to take up the new offer.

If a court decides that your contract was breached, it can order your employer to pay you damages or compensation. This is usually limited to the wages you would have earned during the contractual notice period.

If your employer withdraws the offer for an unlawful or discriminatory reason, for example because the employer finds out that you have a disability, this will be disability discrimination. No service is needed for this kind of claim.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.