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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 11 Feb 2018 | comments*Discuss
 
Misconduct Gross Misconduct Dismissal

If your employer threatens to fire you, it can be a very worrying time. Often this is can be just a threat with no legal basis. However there are situations in which you can be immediately dismissed (for gross misconduct). Below we will consider the situations in which you can or cannot be dismissed.

Working Time Directive Rights

The Working Time Directive gives workers a number of rights. These include:
  • Working a maximum of 8 hours out of every 24 hours for night workers
  • Having 1 day off in every 7 days
  • Having 11 hours off in every 24 hours
  • Having a short in-work break every 6 hours
  • Having 4 weeks paid leave every year

(Note that these are an average, taken across a period of time.)

"I said to my manager that I wanted to take a break after 8 hours of working. He told me that if I do, I might as well go home and not come back. Can he do that?"

Any worker over 18 years old may opt out of the Working Time Directive. However if you do not choose to do so, you cannot legally be fired for your refusal. Equally, if have opted out and choose to opt back in, you are entitled to do so (giving notice to your employer). Your decision to opt back into the Working Time Directive is also not a reason to lawfully fire you.

Changes to working hours

"When I arrived at work last week, my boss told me that he needed me to stay 4 hours later. I said that I couldn't due to child care issues. He shouted that I was fired and walked off. I've not heard from him since. Can I be fired like that?"

If your employment contract does not give you fixed days and hours, your employer can request that you work at different times, and even change a previous rota. You however, have to be given reasonable notice of the change. If you are not given reasonable notice (which will vary on the nature of the change but is usually a minimum of 24 hours), you can refuse to change your working hours. This is not a reason to legally fire you.

Note that if you have reasonable notice of the change, and the new hours comply with your employment contract, you cannot refuse to work when asked. If you have worked for your employer for over 26 weeks and are the full time carer of a child under 17 years old or a dependent adult, you can ask for flexible working (for example to not work weekday evenings). Your employer does not have to agree to this. If they do not agree and you still refuse to work the hours or days required, this will likely be a disciplinary issue. It is unlikely that this is such gross misconduct that you will be fired immediately, but a number of disciplinary issues could lawfully lead to you losing your job.

Zero hour contracts

If your employer stops giving you any working hours (and so you do not receive any income), it may feel like they have fired you. However if you have a zero hours contract, they are not obliged to give you any hours. You have therefore not technically been fired, as you are still in their employment, but working zero hours.

If this arrangement does not work for you (for example if you need the income and so do need a certain number of hours), speak to your employer. Do they think they will realistically be able to give you the hours that you need? If not, you may wish to consider seeking employment elsewhere.

Probation period

"I was hired in a company with 3 months probation but after six weeks... they told me that I don't fit the job. Is it fair?"

Your employer can legally "let you go" without giving a reason at any time during your probation period (as long as this is not for a discriminatory reason). They do however still need to give you the required notice period (usually one week). Our article on probationary periods gives further information about this

Redundancy

If your employer suddenly has a drop in income or need for staff, and so cannot pay or does not need as many employees, they may consider redundancies. (More information on redundancies here).

"I am contracted to work 36 hours a week. My company has no clients in so work has ceased. Should by law they still have to pay me?"

There is a formal redundancy process that must be followed, including consultation with the person whose job is at risk; your employer can't legally just stop paying you or tell you not to come into work anymore.

Gross misconduct

Gross misconduct is conduct so serious that it warrants immediate dismissal.

What is gross misconduct really depends upon the job. For example two employers could require their employees to sweep up litter on an outside area of the premises and ban employees from smoking during this task. However the seriousness of the breach would be different for someone working at a hotel, where smoking might just look unprofessional, compared to at a petrol station where smoking is dangerous.

Even if you commit gross misconduct, you cannot be fired on the spot; there is a process that must be followed.

  1. Your employer can suspend you whilst they investigate the alleged incident. You will however still be paid whilst suspended
  2. There will be a meeting at which you will be given an opportunity to put forward your case. You must be given reasonable notice of the meeting to allow you to consider the points you wish to make.
  3. After this meeting, your employer must give you reasons in writing for your dismissal
  4. You have the right to appeal the decision. If you appeal, your employer must invite you to another meeting. You must again be given advance notice of this meeting and will be given the opportunity to be accompanied by a friend, union representative or colleague (depending upon your employer's procedure for disciplinary meetings)
  5. Following an appeal meeting, your employer must promptly inform you of their final decision in writing

There is therefore no lawful way to just fire someone "on the spot".

If you want to find out more about specific issues try typing your query into the search box above to find the relevant feature. You can also post any comments you have below.

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[Add a Comment]
Kde - Your Question:
Hi I have a permanent contract and am having issues with a bank workerLots of historyI now refuse to work with the person ,what can I do

Our Response:
You can be dismissed for refusing to work with a colleague. If the reason behind your reluctance to work with this person are because of sexual harassment, violence etc you should make a complaint via the official channels.
SafeWorkers - 13-Feb-18 @ 2:34 PM
Hi I have a permanent contract and am having issues with a bank worker Lots of history I now refuse to work with the person ,what can I do
Kde - 11-Feb-18 @ 10:45 PM
I’m a 8 hour contract. Worked for this company for over 10 years. My availability is Monday to Thursday 6am to 5pm and Friday 6am to 12am. My employer, a big retail clothing company, now want me to have a weekend shift available, which I don’t want to. I’m only 8 hour contract and my availability is over 40 hours in that week. Could I be sacked for not opening up my working hours. I feel pressured and I don’t want to work, due to family life at home.
Humbug - 7-Feb-18 @ 8:15 PM
work as a team of four caring for clients in there own homes. went to work told only two on so you have to cover all calls explained we both did not know we had to cover all the calls and both had not got enough petrol in our cars we only missed one call and one call we could not get into on second call family left key in door left message on works answer machine as to what we had donethis is normal practice but now we have both been suspended threatening gross misconduct
popsical - 4-Feb-18 @ 12:18 PM
Paul74 - Your Question:
I have worked for my company since April 2017 and today I received a letter stating that I've got to attend a formal employment review meeting. Reason being breach of the terms of your employment. That your unable to work additional shifts as reasonably required by the company to cover holiday and sickness. Back in June 2017 I was bullied into covering extra shifts that I could not do as had other commitments but I covered them and changed what appointments I had. It got a head in August 2017 when the HR department became aware of the bullying but nothing was done about it as the HR manager as the person who was bullying me are very good friends inside and outside of work. And sine August I have refused to cover any shifts because of this. And the person who bullied me into covering the extra shifts has only covered four shifts since I've been working with the company. Any help or advice would be much appreciated thanks in advance

Our Response:
We suggest you seek professional advice as the disciplinary procedure is already in place...ACAS is a good place to start.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jan-18 @ 2:55 PM
I have worked for my company since April 2017 and today I received a letter stating that I've got to attend a formal employment review meeting. Reason being breach of the terms of your employment. That your unable to work additional shifts as reasonably required by the company to cover holiday and sickness. Back in June 2017 I was bullied into covering extra shifts that I could not do as had other commitments but I covered them andchanged what appointments I had. It got a head in August 2017 when the HR department became aware of the bullying but nothing was done about it as the HR manager as the person who was bullying me are very good friends inside and outside of work. And sine August I have refused to cover any shifts because of this. And the person who bullied me into covering the extra shifts has only covered four shifts since I've been working with the company. Any help or advice would be much appreciated thanks in advance
Paul74 - 24-Jan-18 @ 6:42 PM
I have been unwell and have thirod problems and still have hospital appointments and doctors appointments and go for blood tests every 4weeks I asked if I could take holiday for 3day as I was ill again told no and had to get sick note from doctor now I back work they are giving me a 2nd attendence review can they sack me
Sue - 20-Jan-18 @ 10:18 PM
afoster5 - Your Question:
Hi. So my boyfriend works in a shop on a zero hour contract. Today (02/01/2018) he was called by the manager, who told him he had to come into work to do a shift that started half an hour from the time of the call. They threatened to fire him if he did not do this shift. Bearing in mind they have no valid reason to fire him (he's had two days off since he started working there in Jan 2015 and he's never been in any kind of trouble with the management) and he had no knowledge of this shift at all prior to the phone call. This has happened before under the same circumstances and consequently he feels bullied by the management and hates going into work. I was wondering if they can legally fire him for turning down a shift he wasn't given a reasonable amount of notice to work? Thank you.

Our Response:
If you boyfriend is on a true zero hours contract, he can refuse or accept work offered by the employer and the employer can choose when to offer work. It sounds like he's not on a true zero hours contract, so he should check his employment terms and anything that relates to shifts etc. Take a look at your guide to zero hours contracts here
SafeWorkers - 5-Jan-18 @ 10:36 AM
Hi. So my boyfriend works in a shop on a zero hour contract. Today (02/01/2018) he was called by the manager, who told him he had to come into work to do a shift that started half an hour from the time of the call. They threatened to fire him if he did not do this shift. Bearing in mind they have no valid reason to fire him (he's had two days off since he started working there in Jan 2015 and he's never been in any kind of trouble with the management) and he had no knowledge of this shift at all prior to the phone call. This has happened before under the same circumstances and consequently he feels bullied by the management and hates going into work. I was wondering if they can legally fire him for turning down a shift he wasn't given a reasonable amount of notice to work? Thank you.
afoster5 - 2-Jan-18 @ 12:49 PM
My daughter in law works in anursing home she has a contract to work 30 hours, and has now been put on permanentnights, when she went in to work tonight they have given her additional shifts, and told if she doesn't do them she will be sacked , can they do this,
maz - 27-Dec-17 @ 9:30 PM
Good morning. I have a question. yesterday in full boxing day my boss dismissed me. I have a zero-hour contract, I can know what my rights are by law.
Caps84 - 27-Dec-17 @ 9:51 AM
I am a seasonal temp worker at ASDA, i am contracted to work christmas eve and I call in sick. The store manager says that if I dont come in then my contract will be terminated, can he do this?
hello312 - 24-Dec-17 @ 2:17 PM
What can you do if you have been with a company for a year and have passed your probation, they have paid the agency fee etc, and you are suddenly called in and fired for "gross misconduct" on the basis of a number of untruths from your new boss about the standard of your work, or his own contribution to errors made?You suspect the reason you have been fired is just that they don't personally like you.Do you have any redress in the UK?
Blossom - 20-Dec-17 @ 9:41 PM
Amy - Your Question:
Hi, I've worked for my employer for nearly 3 years. Due to a relationship break down, I am now unable to work the hours I used to due to child care issues. My employer has said they are unable to support me with the hours I can do unless I drop from reception duty manager, to housekeeper, so I need to hand in my notice. I was informed today 19/12/17 and they want me to leave by the end of December. I already have holiday booked in until the end of the year from the 20/12/17. Meaning they have given me a days notice. Can they do this? I don't want to leave on bad terms but after nearly 3 years of service, don't want to be unfairly pushed out and forced to hand in my notice either!! What do I do?

Our Response:
Have you actually handed in your notice? Or are the dismissing you? If you hand in your notice you give the necessary notice period (as stated in your contract). Your employer must allow you to work your necessary notice period or pay you for it. If your notice period coincides with holidays, your employer should pay you for those holidays as days owed/not taken.
SafeWorkers - 20-Dec-17 @ 2:16 PM
Hi, I've worked for my employer for nearly 3 years. Due to a relationship break down, I am now unable to work the hours I used to due to child care issues. My employer has said they are unable to support me with the hours I can do unless I drop from reception duty manager, to housekeeper, so I need to hand in my notice. I was informed today 19/12/17 and they want me to leave by the end of December. I already have holiday booked in until the end of the year from the 20/12/17. Meaning they have given me a days notice. Can they do this? I don't want to leave on bad terms but after nearly 3 years of service, don't want to be unfairly pushed out and forced to hand in my notice either!! What do I do?
Amy - 19-Dec-17 @ 9:57 PM
I was originally hired to work for a company with the agreement of two days working from home (allowed me to accept less money due to travel costs). This was verbally agreed between myself and the company. One month in I chased my pay only to be told I worked for a company I'd never heard of that don't have an office but I can still work from the office of the original company. A week or two later I received a bank transfer as pay with no payslip. I requested equipment to do my job, all of which was denied. I was told out of the blue that there was not enough progress seen (after two days into a six month task) and that I wasn't allowed to work from home (this was unconditional when employed). I was threatened to be fired for correcting someone on the timeframes I had been working for. The last two months I have been paid by cheque which didn't clear until the middle of the months. I have been employed four months, I have requested a contract but have never received one. I have never received a payslip even though I have been requesting them. Today I worked from home, I informed everyone relevant. I have now been fired on the spot via email and threatened legal action if I don't hand over all my work on Monday. There is so much to unpack here but have they broken any laws and what can I do?
Lara - 16-Dec-17 @ 12:09 AM
Hi I've been working in care home for the elderly for just over three years this Christmas coming I am unable to work any of Christmas eve night and Christmas night as of child care issues I have told them back in November when I found out what my wife was working as we both work nights she can't take holidays or rearrange shifts so I have refused to work Christmas as of child care issue can my managers sack me for this thanks in advance
Al - 8-Dec-17 @ 10:17 PM
Tez - Your Question:
Sorry I was contracted to 25 hours but always did 31 then I get no notice at all and just told not to come back. I didnt even get a reason why

Our Response:
You company should at least have follow correct dismissal procedure. Check your employee handbook if you can, to find out what the dismissal procedure it. Your employer should also follow the ACAS code, so give ACAS a call if you think your employer has not followed corrrect procudure.
SafeWorkers - 8-Dec-17 @ 11:51 AM
Sorry i was contracted to 25 hours but always did 31 then i get no notice at all and just told not to come back. I didnt even get a reason why
Tez - 7-Dec-17 @ 9:41 AM
Im on a 7 hour a week contract working in retail and my employer wants me to work an 11 hour shift on christmas eve, i dont mind working a full day of 8 hours but i think 11 hours is out of order, the shift will be standard pay! Can i refuse to work the 11 hours and just tell them im working 8! Christmas eve is a sunday this year and i am not contracted to work on sundays, i know all staff are required to work on the 24th but 11 hours is ridiculous! If i refused to work 11 hours but said i would work 8 instead whats the worst that could happen?
AB - 6-Dec-17 @ 11:38 PM
Im on a 7 hour a week contract working in retail and my employer wants me to work an 11 hour shift on christmas eve, i dont mind working a full day of 8 hours but i think 11 hours is out of order, the shift will be standard pay! Can i refuse to work he 11 hours and just tell them im working 8
AB - 6-Dec-17 @ 11:32 PM
dianeamy - Your Question:
I had a 4 week probation period. 2 weeks in, I had to leave mid shift to pick my son up form nursery as he was sick and fainted. a few hours later I got a email saying im not welcome back. this came as a shock as my boss was very eager in saying in the interview we are a modern company and completely understand your a mother a may need to leave the office once and a while. reassured I took this job over some really good potential jobs. anyway they said id be paid the wages I was owed on the last working day of november. and I still havnt been paid and im unable to get in contact with anyone! what shall I do!?

Our Response:
If you've already tried contacting them by phone/email, send a formal letter asking for payment for the time that you've worked. Give a date by which you want to a response. If you don't hear from them and are not paid, call ACAS as non-payment for work you've done consitutes a breach of contract.
SafeWorkers - 6-Dec-17 @ 10:12 AM
Tez - Your Question:
Ive been working in an arcade amusement place for 7 week then suddenly I get a call saying not to come back with no reason at all. Ive never been late worked all the hours and extra that ive been given and done my job properly and never been in trouble is it right they can just let me go with 1 days notice before my next shift?

Our Response:
Were you on a zero hours contract? In a probationary period? Sorry you haven't given enough information here.
SafeWorkers - 5-Dec-17 @ 2:17 PM
djr - Your Question:
I have been at a company for 2 months 3 weeks my old my old boss from my last job has rang them and told them that I listen in on people I have mental health problems and from a previous job 14 years ago I got sack for stealing stock I never lie in the interview it never came up can they sack me for this

Our Response:
If the job was offered to you on condition of satisfactory references, they might look into the validity of your ex boss's comments and make a decision based on what you told them at interview.
SafeWorkers - 5-Dec-17 @ 11:00 AM
I had a 4 week probation period. 2 weeks in, i had to leave mid shift to pick my son up form nursery as he was sick and fainted. a few hours later i got a email saying im not welcome back. this came as a shock as my boss was very eager in saying in the interview we are a modern company and completely understand your a mother a may need to leave the office once and a while. reassured i took this job over some really good potential jobs. anyway they said id be paid the wages i was owed on the last working day of november. and i still havnt been paid and im unable to get in contact with anyone! what shall i do!?
dianeamy - 5-Dec-17 @ 9:04 AM
Ive been working in an arcade amusement place for 7 week then suddenly i get a call saying not to come back with no reason at all. Ive never been late worked all the hours and extra that ive been given and done my job properly and never been in trouble is it right they can just let me go with 1 days notice before my next shift?
Tez - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:39 PM
Gill - Your Question:
My Friends work for a Cleaning Company that does "Builders Clean" on various Building Sites.They have been told that if they DO NOT take home all the Cloths they use & get them washed & dried they will lose their job.Is this Exploitation & is it Legal?Thank youGill

Our Response:
This really depends on the terms of the contract and whether the remuneration reflects this additional activity.
SafeWorkers - 4-Dec-17 @ 3:29 PM
My Friends work for a Cleaning Company that does "Builders Clean" on various Building Sites. They have been told that if they DO NOT take home all the Cloths they use & get them washed & dried they will lose their job. Is this Exploitation & is it Legal? Thank you Gill
Gill - 4-Dec-17 @ 7:25 AM
i have been at a company for 2 months 3 weeks my old my old boss from my last job has rang them and told them that i listen in on people i have mental health problems and from a previous job 14 years ago i got sack for stealing stock i never lie in the interview it never came up can they sack me for this
djr - 2-Dec-17 @ 3:09 AM
I work in security and December is a busy month, I got the rota in, and I booked a holiday around my days working and days off, my employer told me that he needs my on call for those days and I might need to work a shift in those days, even tho it wasn’t on rota, He said as a last resort he will need me to work, and told me if I am need and I say no il not have a job to come back to, can this be allowed, surely they can’t keep giving me 24 hours notice and telling me if I don’t do it, it will be disciplinary action
Brandon0069 - 1-Dec-17 @ 9:29 PM
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