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shero101 | 19:38 Fri 16th Nov 2007 | Law
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Where do you stand legally if you sign an acceptance form and return to a company that has offered you a job but then change your mind and decide to stay with the company you are already working for. I had heard that you are not under contract with a new employer until your first day. Thanks for your help.

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No. You are in breach of contract or, if before your start date with the employer who offered you the new positon, it is an anticipatory breach to say that you will no longer be joining them as expected. What can they do?

Potentially they can claim damages for the breach - say for overtime caused by your absence, or additional costs for having to readvertise/re-interview. The employer will have to limit their losses though. So if a candidate closely matched your skills etc but who you pipped to get the job, they could offer the job to that person.

Apologise for wasting their time and you will most likely be fine.
Hi shero
Normally the contract will stipulate your start date - if you back out before that date you are not in breech of contract (as you thought). It is normal practice for people to use the offer of a new job to attempt to get their current employers to up the pay and perks - HR professionals are well aware of this and is why they always write nice 'Dear Johns' to the second and, possibly, third placed candidates
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Thanks for your posts. This is a hypothetical question at present as I have the offer pack but have not replied as I am finding it hard to make up my mind due to improved circumstances at my current employment. Interestingly they will not provide me with a start date until I sign the acceptance documentation.
It may well be the case that HR dept's send out Dear John's. But when an offer is accepted it then constitutes a contract and rights and obligations are bestowed on both parties.

Informing one party before the starting date that the other party no longer wishes to 'perform' is an anticipatory breach of contract.

If I am a landscaper and agree to your offer of building you a monoblock driveway for �4000, with the work beginning on November 25, 2007, that is a legally binding contract. If either side changes their mind then a court can award the party in breach to pay damages or force them to perform.

Now most employers won't bother taking legal action, but they could, and they'd be entitled to do so.

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