Can you legally retract a job offer?

Changed your mind on a candidate after saying ‘you’re hired’? HRD finds out how to handle the tricky situation

Can you legally retract a job offer?

Can you legally rescind a job offer in Singapore? The short answer is this: it depends.

Say your team is interviewing several candidates for a role and after telling one of them they’ve got the job, the team decides they’d like to ‘go another way’.

Although it may be in bad form, you may legally retract a job offer here if there isn’t a signed employment contract. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) dictates that the signed, written contract is binding, and employers cannot make changes to the terms of employment without the employee’s consent.

“Once an employment contract has been signed, both employers and employees should be prepared to fulfil their contractual obligations,” MOM said. “In exceptional cases when they are not able to do so, they should inform the other party as soon as possible.”

In such a scenario, rescinding the offer will involve terminating the employee and abiding by the notice period stated in the contract.

As the employee may still be serving his probationary period, which could be between three and six months here, terminating the employment typically means observing at least one week’s notice.

If the notice period was not previously agreed upon, MOM states that both parties must observe one day notice for employees who have worked less than 26 weeks.

Failing to observe any T&Cs in the contract, such as notice period, could mean being liable for compensation in the form of notice pay.

READ MORE: When can HR be held personally liable?

A termination letter is then mandatory and any waivers for the notice period must be mutually agreed upon and done in writing. You’re also not required to give a reason for termination as long as due notice is given, according to MOM.

“If HR decides to terminate an employee’s contract by relying on the termination notice provisions, there is no legal requirement for HR to provide a reason, unless the contract states that a reason must be given,” said Thomas Choo, partner at Clyde & Co.

“MOM however encourages employers to explain their reasons for termination so that the employee can better understand the situation and achieve closure.”

Also, termination for poor or non-performance is legal in Singapore, Choo explained, as it is an implied term that employees “must be competent”. This means it’s legal to retract the job offer if the employee shows signs of being a bad fit for the role.

“If the employee misrepresents that they have a specific skillset which the employer is specifically looking for, there is a good chance that the employer can legally terminate them for incompetency and poor performance,” Choo said.

Under the Employment Act, employers can choose to terminate employees for several reasons. They include unsatisfactory probation performance, breach of contract by an employee and employee misconduct.

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