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How to Withdraw an Offer of Employment

5 min read

In some circumstances, an employer might need to withdraw an offer of employment. This could be due to a number of factors. Perhaps circumstances within their company have changed, or perhaps the offer was dependent on requirements that the candidate has failed to meet. Either way, having a job offer withdrawn can be disappointing for the applicant. This makes the process of rescinding the offer a delicate one

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand what actually counts as an offer of employment. Telling an applicant that you wish to hire them is a job offer. It doesn’t need to be in writing to be legally binding. It can be verbal, whether that be over the phone or face to face. 

In this article, we will cover the situations in which a job offer can and cannot be withdrawn. We will talk through how to rescind the offer of employment, including a letter template for inspiration.

  1. Can a Job Offer be Withdrawn? 
  2. Withdrawing Offer of Employment (Conditional & Unconditional)
  3. Wrongful Offer Withdrawal
  4. How to Withdraw an Offer of Employment 
  5. Withdrawing Offer of Employment: Sample Letter 
  6. What to Do if Your Job Offer is Withdrawn
  7. Digitise and Streamline your Recruitment Process with Factorial

Can a Job Offer be Withdrawn? 

Whether a job offer can be withdrawn depends on the circumstances. If a candidate has not yet accepted the job offer, you can retract the offer without any complications. However, the answer is more nuanced if the candidate has already accepted.

If the candidate has accepted the job offer and it is conditional, you can rescind the offer if it later becomes clear that they don’t meet certain criteria. On the other hand, if the candidate has accepted the job offer and it is unconditional, an employer cannot withdraw it as the employment contract has already begun. More on both of these instances below.

If a job offer is withdrawn once the employment contract is legally binding, this is no longer referred to as an offer withdrawal. This would be defined as a ‘dismissal’ and therefore equates to giving an employee notice of termination. In these instances, employers are legally required to pay the amount that their notice period would have been worth. If this amount hasn’t been documented anywhere, you can use the legal minimum UK notice period of a week. 

Withdrawing Offer of Employment

Conditional Job Offer 

This is any offer of employment that is dependent on a candidate meeting specific conditions. In other words, the job offer is not final and the employment contract has not begun until the candidate has passed these background checks. Examples of this might be: 

  • Reference checks revealing misinformation was given about previous employment, or references aren’t legitimate. 
  • Criminal record check doesn’t come back clean which is at odds with the candidate’s application. 
  • Research into academic history and qualifications doesn’t match information the candidate provided. 
  • Right to work checks reveal an issue with citizenship or visa type. 
  • Medical history shows a candidate is unfit to fulfil the role. 
  • DBS check reveals a candidate is unfit for the role. 

An offer withdrawal based on any of those reasons is legitimate and means you don’t need to pay any compensation. 

Unconditional Job Offer 

In some instances, an employer might offer an applicant the job regardless of any criteria being met. This type of employment contract begins from the moment of acceptance. It is legally binding from then on, whether it is verbal or written. For this reason, withdrawing an offer of this kind would be considered a breach of contract. 

For employers, the only other possibility here is being transparent with the candidate in the hopes that they will step back. You have every right to speak with the candidate about rescinding the job offer. 

Although they don’t have a legal obligation to accept your request, you might be able to mediate your way through the situation. Communicate the honest reasons behind the offer withdrawal. Maybe your company has had budgeting issues or is undergoing an unexpected restructuring. Or maybe the applicant has since displayed behaviour that you’re unsure about. 

Whatever the reason, convey that you understand how difficult this might be for them. Perhaps even send an official letter or email detailing this discussion (you can find a template below). Doing so shows that you take the matter seriously, and therefore improves perceptions of your employer brand. 


Wrongful Offer Withdrawal

As a result of the Equality Act 2010, there are nine characteristics that are protected in the UK. Put simply, these are qualities that cannot factor into your hiring decisions. These include: 

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation. 

Basing the withdrawal of an offer of employment on any of these characteristics would be discrimination. Doing so is therefore punishable by law. 

How to Withdraw an Offer of Employment 

You might want to follow up an offer withdrawal with a letter or email. Cementing your conversation in writing avoids potential confusion and could help to clarify any details. It also gives you an opportunity to outline the reasons behind the offer withdrawal and prove that it was not a discriminatory decision. This isn’t just about covering your back. This is about the mental wellbeing of the applicant, your employer brand reputation and future talent acquisition

Withdrawing Offer of Employment: Sample Letter 

For the times that you might need to unfortunately withdraw a conditional offer of employment, we’ve put together a letter template as a starting point. 

Dear [Candidate’s name], 

We are writing to inform you that we are withdrawing the offer of employment made to you on [job offer date] for the position of [job role] at [company name]. 

We have carefully considered this and we do not take the decision lightly. Ultimately, we are rescinding the offer due to [reason for offer withdrawal]. As the offer of employment was dependent on this condition being met, the employment contract has not yet begun. This also means that [company name] is not legally obligated to compensate you for this decision. 

We hope you are able to find a position that better suits you and wish you the best of luck in your search. 

Of course, don’t hesitate to contact [HR manager’s name] at [HR manager’s email address] if you would like to discuss this further or have any questions about the decision. 

Kind regards, 

[Your name]

[Your job title]


What to Do If Your Job Offer is Withdrawn 

As a candidate, having your employment offer withdrawn can be understandably frustrating and disappointing.  If you don’t believe the employer’s reasoning was fair, or you have any other issues with how the job offer was withdrawn, you have options. 

Firstly, you can reach out to the hiring manager to ask for more details about the decision. Why was the job offer withdrawn? Which criteria did you not meet? Can the employer offer you anything else, or at least consider you for future roles? 

If you discover that the reason behind the withdrawal was discriminatory, you can take your claim to an employment tribunal. If you are not content with the answers they’ve given for any other reason, you can call the Acas helpline. They will help you understand your options. 

Digitise and Streamline your Recruitment Process with Factorial

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Our software unifies the process for hiring managers and applicants, allowing efficient integration for new employees. This not only increases the satisfaction of new employees in the company but also prepares them better for their role, ensuring increased productivity and greater company success. Creating these better experiences can only improve employer branding and make your company more attractive to top talent in the future

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  • Create personalised job offers, application forms or pipeline steps.
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Emma is a Content Writer with 5 years of Marketing experience. She specialises in HR strategy and modern workplace trends. When she's not writing, she's running by the beach or cooking Italian food.

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