Is it breach of contract if dismissed before starting work?

Luke Stevens 05/21/2018. 3 answers, 9.276 views
united-kingdom contract-law employment breach-of-contract

I've been dismissed by a company I was due to start a job with, just a few days before the job was meant to start. They have no intention of providing me with any compensation despite the fact I handed in my notice as my previous job, moved to the other end of the country, and signed a lease at a new property to take this job.

For more detail here is a timescale in which I'll use the abbreviation BCE to mean Before Commencement of Employment.

  • 7 weeks BCE received and signed contract of employment with start date.
  • At this time I handed in my notice to my then employer and landlord.
  • I had little contact with the company or agent who hired me until 3 weeks BCE when the agent called me to check that everything was on track with my move.
  • 1 week BCE I managed to secure and sign for a lease on a property in the city the new job was located in. I had to make multiple journeys and incur considerable costs to view properties and find somewhere to live.
  • 3 days (1 working day) BCE the agent called me to inform me that the company would no longer be able to hire me because of financial difficulties.
  • 1 day BCE I received email confirmation from the company they would no longer be able to hire me and that they were not expecting to compensate me.

It may be of note that I am UK based (I moved from the South coast to Scotland for the job) and although there was a probationary period specified in the contract I am under the impression that that would not have started at the point the employment was terminated.

Are there grounds for a breach of contract here?

3 Answers

gnasher729 05/21/2018.

UK: For all I know you cannot be fired unless you are hired. They must hire you. Once a job offer is made and accepted, they must hire you. If they don't, call a lawyer.

I personally know someone who got hired, and when he arrived for his first day's work at the new company, he found that the whole department that he was supposed to join had been laid of. The company had to hire him.

PS. "Financial difficulties" means you call a lawyer urgently. Once they are bankrupt your chances of extracting money are not good.

Jack Aidley 05/22/2018.

Yes, it is breach of contract but it is unclear whether you can get meaningful compensation

According to UK Government Advice, if the employer withdraws the offer after "[t]he employer has confirmed that the job offer was unconditional, or the applicant has met all conditions" then "[t]he applicant can sue the employer for ‘breach of contract’". However, this advice from the TUC states that "[i]f 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" so you may find that while you can sue the available compensation makes this a poor use of your time.

Consult a solicitor specialising in employment law.

You may also wish to consider simply politely contacting the employer with a list of the costs incurred as a result of their failure to honour a good-faith contract and hope they will do the right thing and offer to offset at least some of your costs.

Dale M 05/21/2018.

Yes, and even if not there are promissory estoppel issues - hire a lawyer.

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