It sounds like a riddle – when is a job offer not a job offer? Employers are increasingly carrying out a wide range of screening tests on staff before employing them, and it’s standard to make any job offer conditional on passing whatever tests the employer wishes to put in place. Most often, these conditional offers are associated with criminal records checks or DBS checks; if your disclosure certificate shows up criminal convictions then you know you’re not getting the job. But what about the other background checks, can employers withdraw an offer if they’re not happy with what they find?

Employer Procedure

The short answer to whether an offer can be withdrawn is yes – as long as you’ve made it clear to the applicant what checking you will be doing, and that something coming up on a background check could lead to the job offer being withdrawn. This can cause issues for applicants, who may have handed in their notice at their previous employer. But as long as you have told them your policy, legally you are in the clear.

Conditional Offers

It is up to the individual employer to decide what conditions they wish to impose on employment. Nearly all job offers will include a paragraph about offers being subject to satisfactory references. Many jobs will require a DBS check, but other checks may apply too. Given the high number of people who tell lies or exaggerate facts on their CV, it’s becoming increasingly common for an employer to fact check everything, and should you discover that an applicant has tweaked their A-level grades, or claimed false responsibilities or experience, you are well within your rights as an employer to withdraw their employment offer. The other important thing to note as an employer is that the applicant has the right to ask you why you have withdrawn their offer – but you also have the right not to tell them the specifics. A standard statement about failing pre-employment checks is sufficient, legally.

This is often a judgement call. The employer will look at the information which you have provided them, and what has been revealed on background screening. They can then decide whether, on balance, they still wish to employ you. An employer may decide to overlook a slight exaggeration about past work experience, but don’t have to.

Right to Work

One of the key checks which employers have no discretion over is the right to work checks. This is a legal requirement, set out by government. Employers have to check whether the people they are employing are legally allowed to live and work in the UK. If you can’t show them the correct proof, then they will have no choice but to withdraw your offer. Usually, employers will ask to see a valid passport as proof of your nationality. If you don’t have a passport, look online to see which other documentation can be accepted instead. Employers won’t risk employing you without seeing your documents as fines for illegal workers can be up to £20k per worker.