When to make a conditional offer of employment

You’ve gone through the recruitment process and identified someone you think will be a great fit for the job – but what happens next? Should you just offer them the job? Or should you consider making the offer conditional?

Our HR & Employment Law experts have their say in this quick article.


What is a conditional offer of employment?

This is where an offer of employment is conditional (i.e., it relies) on particular conditions being met. The contract of employment will not come into effect until or unless these conditions have been met.

As a general rule, it’s always useful to make offers of employment conditional. If an offer of employment is made unconditional, you wouldn’t be able to revoke it if you needed to – for example, if poor references were received.


What types of conditional offers are there?

There’s a wide range of conditions or criteria which can be placed on offers of employment.

One popular option is making a job offer on the condition of receiving satisfactory references. This is a sensible option, because you could receive a reference from a former employer that reveals some new and less-than-satisfactory information about the candidate. In some cases, this could have an impact on their ability to perform the role they’ve been recruited for, making them unsuitable for the role.

An offer of employment may also be conditional upon the completion of a satisfactory DBS check or having the right to work in the UK, if these are requirements of the role that you’re recruiting for.

Another common condition is producing evidence of qualifications, so you can check they’re being fully open and honest about their level of experience.


How do conditional offers of employment work?

You’d usually go about making a conditional offer of employment by first sending an offer letter to the person you’re looking to hire which makes the offer of employment conditional upon certain requirements being met.

This offer letter, containing the conditional offer of employment, should also either contain the employment contract or let them know that their contract of employment will be sent once the offer is accepted. It should explain that the contract won’t come into effect until those conditions have been met.

For example, if you made your offer of employment conditional upon and subject to you receiving satisfactory references, it would also be useful to say that if unsatisfactory references are received, you have the right to dismiss them. This condition must be made clear before they accept the offer of employment. Once accepted, this becomes a term of their employment.

You should ask your potential employee to sign and return the offer letter to avoid disputes about whether the terms of employment in the offer letter have been accepted and agreed.


Why are conditional offers of employment useful for employers?

Conditional offers of employment are a useful tool for employers who want to make sure that they have the right person for the job who can meet the requirements of the role. If it turns out that they can’t meet one of the conditions of the offer of employment, it’s much easier to exit them from your business than it would be if the offer of employment was unconditional.


Advice on making a job offer

When you recruit someone, it’s important to determine at an early stage what employment status you think that person should have – whether it’s:

  • An employee
  • A worker
  • An agency worker
  • An employee shareholder
  • A volunteer
  • An intern
  • A self-employed person

This is important because the rights attached to each of them are different. See our free employment status and employment rights guide below for more information.

Defining employment status: Understanding employment rights

An overview of the different employment status in Employment Law, how that determines employment rights and an overview of an employer's responsibilities.

Download the guide

When making a job offer, it’s useful for more than one person to make a decision on who to offer the job to, to make sure you’re following a fair and transparent process and avoid subjective decision making.

It’s also important that:

  • Notes are kept of the interview or the scores from the selection process
  • Successful candidates are informed as soon as possible
  • All unsuccessful candidates are informed too – and requests for feedback from those candidates are dealt with.

There’s a risk that if you don’t give feedback, rejected candidates could feel that there were discriminatory reasons for them not being hired – which could potentially lead to costly employment tribunals.


Get to grips with recruitment with Citation

Recruitment and retention is a hot topic right now with vacancies high in lots of industries. As an employer, you’ve got two things to worry about when it comes to recruitment – firstly, how do you attract the right talent and make your business one people want to work for? And secondly, how do you make sure you’re meeting all your legal obligations and best-practice advice when recruiting candidates?

That’s where Citation comes in. We offer everything from support with and distribution of contracts of employment to on-site recruitment training days to help you master the process. Our HR & Employment experts are also available 24/7 on our client advice line to answer any questions or concerns you might have.

So, to partner with Citation, simply get in touch with a member of our team today! Fill out the form on this page for a call-back, or make the first move by calling us on 0345 844 1111.


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