The Savvy IMG

Can I reject a job offer I previously accepted if I get a better offer?

Let's dive into this commonly asked question and cover how this tricky situation can get you in trouble with the GMC.

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Updated: August 20, 2020

Yes, it may be possible to reject an offer that you previously accepted provided you speak to the department early on.

However, if you leave it too late, this can be seen as a sign of unprofessionalism and there is a risk of being referred to the GMC for professional misconduct.

Why would you be referred to the GMC?

The GMC has a professional code of conduct called Good Medical Practice that all doctors must follow. In Domain 3 – Communication, partnership and teamwork under the section “Working collaboratively with colleagues”, it clearly states your obligation as  GMC-registered doctor:

There are a few things to clarify here:

What constitutes formal acceptance?

Acceptance of the job offer through email, in person, or over the phone is enough to constitute formal acceptance. Basically, however you said yes is still a yes.

What if I haven’t signed anything?

Most of the time, you will not sign anything prior to starting the job. Contracts are usually only given after you’ve started. So acceptance of the job offer through email or over the phone is enough to constitute formal acceptance.

What if the hospital has reasonable time to make other arrangements?

You can find out by talking to the department. Discuss this with them as early as possible – good communication is key

There are 3 main possible outcomes:

  • They may allow you to withdraw with no consequences.
  • They may allow you to withdraw with conditions, such as asking you to pay back any fees they incurred in the process of employing you. OR
  • They may tell you that it’s too late and you can no longer withdraw. In this case, you’d need to start the job and then hand in a notice of resignation which can range from 1-3 months depending on the conditions of your contract.

What if the hospital says they can’t make other arrangements but I still withdraw?

They can let it go and you never hear from them again, or they can refer you to the GMC for professional misconduct. There are different types of actions depending on the severity of the situation. This can include issuing warnings that will be on your public GMC profile, suspending you from the register, or even revoking your license completely. It is very unlikely that you will received a serious sanction unless you have seriously endangered patient safety. You can read more about GMC sanctions here.

What if the hospital is taking too long to process paperwork and I want to start working sooner?

If the employer is not adhering to the timeline they gave you when you accepted the job offer, it may be a valid reason to decline. It’s best to discuss this with them to see how they can speed things up.

When is it acceptable to reject a previously accepted job offer?

If there are genuine reasons why you are not able to take up an offer, such as a significant change in circumstances, then most hospitals will be understanding and it is unlikely to result in an negative consequences.

Does this apply to training jobs or non-training jobs?

This applies to all types of jobs. You must give the employer enough time to make other arrangements whether training or non-training or risk referral to the GMC.
For training jobs it’s a little easier to reject a previously accepted offer because there is usually 4-5 months between acceptance and the start of the job. So provided you discuss this with the deanery early enough, it should be ok.
If you plan to start the training job then quit after starting, then keep in mind that this can count against you if you want to apply to the same specialty in the future. So if you want to quit, do so before you actually start to avoid repercussions.
Bottom line: you must treat acceptance of any medical job seriously and professionally. Rejecting a previously accepted job offer simply because you changed your mind or did not give it thorough consideration reflects very poorly on you.

How NOT to get yourself in this position

There are several ways to avoid this sticky situation:

  1. Do not accept job offers without giving it due thought and consideration.
  2. Negotiate terms that you are happy with before accepting, or accept the conditional offer with your own conditional acceptance dependent on certain factors that you both agree on.
  3. If you have other potential job offers lined up, ask the first hospital if there is a deadline for you to accept the offer since you are waiting to hear back from other jobs.
  4. Once you’ve accepted a job offer, stop applying for further jobs or attending other interviews.

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9 Responses

  1. Hi

    I had an interview on the 2nd of October for a job which went will and then accepted the offer. They sent me the first conditional offer in the wrong pay scale and therefore I declined to sign it and requested the right one. I emailed them (HR) 13/11 again and received no answer. I emailed and texted them 13/12 and got no answer and therefore on December 30th decided to withdraw my application on trac-job but sent an email to HR on January 1st. what are the consequences? the job was suppose to start from March 1st.

    1. Hi there, sorry it’s taken so long to see your comment. We have hundreds to go through! How did things go? In these situations you really need to call them. They receive hundreds of emails and texts so to make sure you get a response, call them directly then follow up with an email confirming the details of your discussion. Hope things turned out alright!

      1. Hi
        I have the same issue as mentioned above, I got a job offer that wasn’t what I wanted but didn’t have any options at the time. I accepted it on email. I have since then gotten a dream offer I’ve always wanted. It’s been 2 weeks since I accepted the last job and I’ve not signed anything they r waiting on my police check. Wat is the way out of this ?

        1. Hi there, it’s great you got your dream job offer! Speak to the first employer now and discuss the possibility of withdrawing your acceptance. It’s still early so they may still be able to contact the other applicants who were interviewed. Good luck!

  2. Hello!

    Wanted to ask, if you’ve sent an email to the HR asking to withdraw after you’ve accepted, and then they withdraw your application from the Trac Jobs system, is that sufficient? Or should you be getting an email from them confirming withdrawal?

  3. Hi! I didn’t get a job offer for the specialty but I did get a second choice specialty training number which I accepted and starting in August 2020 to secure my continuous Tier 2 visa status. Meanwhile, I’m hoping to find a fellow/Trust grade job in the specialty of my choice. If I do manage to find a Trust grab that starts in August, am I allowed to withdraw my training job that starts in August?

    1. Hi there, as long as you give adequate notice as specified in your contract then you can resign from your training job at any point in the year. Best of luck!

  4. Hi…..very useful article. I was offered a job in last week of April 2020 on email by consultant who interviewed me. She didn’t send me any terms and conditions or job contract but asked me to respond if I accept this job or not. I replied back in email that I accept because many people told me that unless one doesn’t accept the job, they don’t proceed with further referee checks and issuing a formal contract. Furthermore, salary and working hours were mentioned in job description and they were fine for me. Now its 2nd week of june and I haven’t got my conditional offer yet. Consultant says she has finalized my paperwork and now HR will be in touch while HR says they are waiting for appointee sheet…Now in this situation if I come across any other opportunity, can I go for that? I mean its been 2 months now and I’ve nothing in hands except an email by consultant that she is offering me a post…Please help as I can see other opportunities as well which I am declining due to her mail. Regards

    1. Hi there, I recommend calling the HR department to ask what is happening and how long you can expect before you start work. If their timeline is acceptable to you, you can continue with them, if not, I would think that it’s a valid reason to now decline. Offering someone a job does not mean you can keep them on hold indefinitely. You can tell them that you have other offers that you are declining because you accepted their offer however as nothing has happened for 2 months and you have no ongoing paperwork with them, you are inclined to go with other opportunities that will allow you start work sooner. Best of luck!

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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
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