Help! My Job Offer Got Rescinded, What Can I Do?

Last updated on December 19, 2022

Man in distress

Amidst an increasingly competitive job market, stable and secure employment continues to be valued for the socioeconomic assurances it promises. Thus, receiving a job offer to pursue a career in your desired field would seem to be something to be celebrated. However, it appears that even prospective employees who have completed the intensive process of interviews and assessments to secure a job offer continue to have a reason for concern.

This was the case for Lingo (not his real name), a Chinese national who packed up his life in China and spent S$14,000 to move to Singapore upon accepting an offer to join Shopee, a Singaporean multinational technology company, as an algorithm engineer. However, upon arriving in Singapore and days before starting his new job, Lingo was informed by Shopee that the job offer had been rescinded.

This article will explain the potential reasons for, and legal implications of, an employer rescinding a job offer in Singapore. It will cover:

What It Means to Have Your Job Offer Rescinded

A rescinded job offer refers to a situation where an employer who had previously extended a job offer to a prospective employee later withdraws the offer. Employers may rescind an offer for various reasons and under various circumstances (as explained below).

Why Might an Employer Rescind Their Job Offer?

Different factors can influence an employer’s decision to rescind a job offer. In the case of Shopee, their reason for rescinding Lingo’s job offer was due to “adjustments to hiring plans on some tech teams”.

Some other reasons may include the following:

Unprofessional conduct
  • If you tried to negotiate a salary that the employer is not amenable to after initially accepting their offer
  • If you have posted or made public statements that do not align with their mission and values
Financial challenges of the company
  • Where the company is suffering financial issues and determines it necessary to reduce costs
Offer expiration
  • If you failed to accept the offer before it lapses without providing valid reasons for doing so, and the employer gives the position to another candidate
Failed background checks
  • If you are found to have lied about your criminal record, bankruptcy status, or other matters relevant to your role
Negative employment reference
  • If your employer receives negative feedback upon reaching out to your references on matters concerning your job history, skills, competencies and personality traits, they may feel that you are not an ideal fit for their position
Active non-compete agreement
  • If you had signed a non-compete agreement with your former or current employer that is still in force, a new company in the same industry may revoke your offer so as to avoid incurring any penalties for breaching the agreement
Inaccurate application information
  • If you have not been honest about certain details in your resume or application, the employer may rescind the offer after verifying such information which may include your education, skills, former positions of responsibility, and achievements
Change in leadership

in the company

  • A change in the company’s management may affect the previous management’s recruitment decisions, such as the hiring process and prospective candidates for the role

Under Singapore law, whether an employer may legally rescind a job offer largely depends on the circumstances surrounding the initial job offer. In particular, it is important to distinguish the situations in which there was a signed employment contract concluded between yourself and your employer, and where no employment contract was present.

Where there is a signed employment contract

Employers may not legally rescind or revoke a previously offered job if there is a signed employment contract. This is because an employment contract essentially constitutes an agreement between the employer and employee, and they are bound to certain contractual obligations as stipulated in the terms. Likewise, where there is a signed contract of service between the employer and employee, rescinding a job offer can constitute a termination of the contract. Under the Employment Act (EA), any termination must be done in accordance with the terms of the contract.

If there is an employment contract, the employer must also abide by the notice period stipulated therein. If an employee’s employment is terminated while serving their probationary period, which is typically between three to six months, then the affected employee would need to serve at least one week’s notice. Where the employment contract does not provide for a termination notice period, the employer must issue a notice period in accordance with Section 10 of the EA. Likewise, an employer must observe one day’s notice for employees who have worked less than 26 weeks.

You may refer to the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) for further information on the recommended practice for employment termination. For additional information, you may also refer to our other article on the processes following the termination of employment.

Should your employer fail to comply with the terms and conditions under the employment contract, including the notice period, your employer can be liable for compensation in the form of payment in lieu of notice.

Where your employer seeks to rescind your job offer, thereby effectively terminating your employment, you must also be issued a termination letter in writing and it must be signed by yourself as well as your employer. If you do not receive a termination letter, you should request it from your employer. If a termination letter is not issued, the employment contract will remain valid notwithstanding your employer’s attempt to rescind the job offer.

Where there is no signed employment contract

Conversely, where there is no signed employment contract between yourself and your employer, it will not be possible for you to seek legal recourse against your employer. This is because the lack of contractual obligations binding your employer in relation to your job offer provides you without a legal basis for disputing their decision or for seeking a remedy.

What Can You Do If Your Job Offer has been Rescinded?

In the unfortunate event that your job offer is rescinded, you may be wondering whether there are any avenues through which you can dispute your employer’s decision or seek any form of remedy. This section will address some practical measures and legal options that may be available to you in this regard.

Find out the reasons for your job offer being rescinded

If your employer has complied with the notice period requirement as stipulated in the signed employment contract or under the EA, your employer is not required to give a reason for rescinding the job offer. However, should you still wish to be informed of the reason behind their decision, it is recommended that you reach out to the company’s management or Human Resources department.

Subsequently, should you have any reason to suspect that the job offer was rescinded on potentially discriminatory grounds (e.g. including for reasons of gender, pregnancy, or religion), you may be able to seek advice from MOM or the Tripartite Alliance for Fair & Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) as these are contrary to fair hiring practices in Singapore. Further information on TAFEP’s guidelines may be found here

Employers who fail to abide by the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices will face scrutiny from MOM. Such employers also risk having their work pass privileges curtailed, for instance, by being debarred from making and renewing work pass applications.

Can you take legal action against the company?

If you have already signed the employment contract and your employer subsequently rescinded the job offer, whether you may seek any viable legal action against your employer would depend on the circumstances around such termination. These are further explained below.

Where the employment contract provides for the employer’s right to rescind a job offer

Where the employer is contractually entitled to rescind the job offer, for instance by terminating the employment contract with notice, such termination will be presumed not to be wrongful.

In order to establish a case of wrongful dismissal, you must be able to substantiate a wrongful reason for the dismissal. Absent a valid reason, you will not be able to succeed in a claim for wrongful dismissal. Some examples of wrongful reasons for dismissing an employee include the following:

Discrimination Dismissing an employee for his or her age, race, gender, religion, marital status and family responsibilities, or disability.
Depriving an employee of a benefit
  • Dismissing an employee soon after she informs her employer of her pregnancy to deprive her of her maternity benefits.
  • Dismissing an employee soon before his or her retirement so as to avoid disbursing retirement benefits they would otherwise have been entitled to.
Punishing an employee for exercising his rights as an employee
  • Dismissing an employee for declining a request to work overtime.
  • Dismissing an employee for filing a mediation request to resolve a workplace dispute with the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management.

Further elaborations and examples of wrongful dismissals may be found here.

Besides the above reasons, a dismissal would also be considered wrongful where the employer’s given reason for dismissal with notice is proven to be false.

Where the prospective employee has incurred expenses in expectation of starting the job 

In the event that the employee has relocated his family or moved his residence to be nearer to the workplace as was the case with Lingo, the availability of legal recourse would depend on the terms of the job offer signed between the employer and prospective employee.

If the employment contract includes a termination provision detailing the rights and obligations of both parties regarding the termination of employment, the employer may be bound to discharge additional obligations and comply with additional conditions in the event that they choose to rescind a job offer. For instance, where the termination clause provides that the prospective employee is entitled to payment in lieu of notice or to compensation for any expenses incurred in reliance of the job offered, they would be bound to comply with the clause in the manner and extent as prescribed.

Insofar as the potential of commencing legal action against your employer’s decision to rescind a job offer is concerned, this would not be prudent given the time and costs involved in litigation. MOM has therefore recommended that employers and employees involved in such situations should “work out an amicable way to resolve the matter in good faith.” This can be through an informal negotiation or mediation with an independent third party.

Where your employer is not forthcoming with reaching a peaceful resolution, you may wish to consider consulting an employment lawyer on the appropriate course of action to take before engaging in further attempts to resolve the matter through legal or other means.

In the unfortunate event that your job offer is rescinded, you should carefully review the terms of any employment contract or agreement that you may have signed with your prospective employer.

The discussion above offers a brief overview of the various situations that may arise in relation to a rescinded job offer as well as the legal options that may be available to you. However, as each matter can depend on the specific circumstances and terms of your employment contract, it is best to consult an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer will be able to offer you further advice, help determine your rights, and assess any possible avenues for legal recourse.

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