Q&A - Job offered after online interview during COVID lockdown has been retracted. Is this legal?

Q:    I applied for a job on a twelve-month contract and, after an online interview last week due to COVID restrictions, I was offered it. The offer was emailed to me and I accepted it by email and was told a contract would follow. On the strength of that I gave notice on my current job.

Now, a week later, I have had a phone call from my new employers to say they are withdrawing the job offer as they had not realised my current employment was a training contract – even though it was clearly stated, both on the application and in my accompanying CV. The new employers say they are entitled to withdraw because I have not actually signed a contract. Can they do this?

A:    Whilst you may not have physically signed a contract, one existed the moment you accepted their offer. The big question is whether you were made a conditional offer or an unconditional offer. A conditional offer, for example, might be an offer that is subject to receipt of satisfactory references. So, you need to consider whether any conditions were placed on the offer at the time it was made, as conditions cannot be added afterwards.

If the offer you were made was unconditional and you accepted it and it has subsequently been withdrawn, then your employer has breached the contract even if you do not have a formal written contract. You would therefore have a case to sue the employer, particularly as you will have suffered losses by resigning from your current job to take up this new post.

Since the new post was a twelve month contract the employer could be liable to recompense you for twelve months’ pay, depending on whether there was a probationary period. You should make an appointment to speak to an employment solicitor as soon as possible.

Article 16/11/2020

This question has been answered by James Denton, a Solicitor with GHP Legal.  If you would like to speak to someone about this or any other legal matter it is still possible and we are doing everything we can to ensure that we continue to offer our high levels of service to our clients.  In accordance with government guidelines, some of our lawyers are currently working remotely which means you may not now receive a response as promptly as you may expect. Please kindly bear with us and we will respond as soon as we are able.

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James Denton

James Denton


Solicitor in our Civil Litigation team in the Oswestry and Wrexham offices.

Robert Williams

Robert Williams

Partner and Complaints Handler

Partner and Head of the Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Dispute Resolution team in Wrexham