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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 8 Apr 2019 | 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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My manager was leaving the restaurant I work at , before he left he told all staff to stay and have a drink , which we did , a new manager has started work there now , and was informed of what happened , we have all been suspended , I feel it was a set up as both managers are friends , it seems very unfair that the manager leaving gave us permission to do this and now we are under investigation .
Moi - 8-Apr-19 @ 5:38 PM
I work in warehouse distributing to one of the main supermarket. I paid to gain my LGV driving license. My company gave me chance to transport department where I could earn more money. The programme was for colleagues that had gain this licenses to help them gain experience. I started with a driver trainer for sometime. The first day on my own I made a mistake at the store that I hit a sign post. Came back followed the company procedure. Later I was on to another delivery. Came back with no issues. Next on my shift I was told you are not going out but with a driver. I was with this driver for awhile.l later my company told me I should go back to the warehouse no work job for me. What can I do
Baptist - 6-Apr-19 @ 5:40 PM
Hi my boss many yrs ago threatened me that if I didn't do double the wrk then he would half my hrs. I didn't agree to it as its physically impossible but said I would do my best. He's now trying again to get rid of me on same grounds. He's not treating other staff the same as he is me!What are my rights? I've been employed there 21yrs the last 13yrs of that at 16hrs a wk. Help please
Thistle - 25-Mar-19 @ 5:19 PM
I have been off for a month all over January I have rang my manager for my shifts and she just keeps saying that she has done the rota and she will ring me to tell me my next shifts but she doesn’t we are now in February and I still haven’t heard anything what shall I do
Kirsty - 4-Feb-19 @ 2:34 PM
My employer has introduced a none smoking policy during working hours, i worked my shift and clocked off and was stood off site at the side of a public highway smoking a cigarette i went back to collect my car where a member of management confronted me saying i face a disciplinary for gross misconduct
Bigbie - 11-Oct-18 @ 5:23 PM
I have been working for the same company in admin for 7 yrs, have been taken in the office and told I am not fast enough and if i don't change they will have to let me go because i'm not capable of doing the job, can the do this?
lacy - 11-Sep-18 @ 1:40 PM
Two weeks ago while I was on holiday my boss rings me on the last day on a Friday afternoon and asked if I could work the following week 09:00-17:00 as he was going on holiday. Of which I said yes. But on the week starting I decided to work my normal core hours of 10:00-18:00. I didn’t change this through out. Now I have been given a letter stating disciplinary action / hearing will be brought agasnt me on the 13th September stating that after this investigation I could be dismissed from my job in refusal to compliy to cover my dept in line with buisness needs after agreeing to do so and a non-acceptable attitude to my working hours.
D - 6-Sep-18 @ 7:38 PM
Hi today my boss send me on Turners for Lorry Driver I fill paperwork all dan after 20 min come to me one men from traffic office tell me I can use you beacause you was working with as
Ridvas - 2-Sep-18 @ 9:16 AM
I work in a retail shop and just recently I have been having an affair with my assistant manager and we have been lets say but of touching has been going on, I got pulled in the office and I got told by my area manager that I must move shop because of it, can I get sacked if I refuse?
Ryanwrench - 16-Aug-18 @ 9:36 PM
Hi I work in a call centre and they have a quality sheet to monitor calls,we do not recieve a bonus if we pass quality but we do get threatened with the sack if we fail quality.It is monitored on a 6 weekly cycle and the calls are picked randomly and on the quality sheet are what they call critical fails.Now I do understand the reason for quality but they expect 100%on every call. One of the critical fails is not saying sorry to a customer when they call in,I do appreciate that it is courtesy to apologies which I try to do on every call and most customers reply you don't have to appologise as these things happen. There are other critical fails on the sheet such as DPA which I believe is far more important but the reason I have picked appologise is that a fellow colleague has been threatened with the sack and infact has been referred to the HR team to be issued with a warning which could eventually lead to dismisal. I believeve that is tantamount to bullying and somewhat unreasonable behaviour being displayed by the quality team.I have worked for call centres for many years who also had quality obviously but it was worked out as a percentage much like an exam and if you went below that percentage you would receive extra training if you continued to fail it would lead to dismisal but you were not executed to acheive 100%for every cycle which was on a quarterly based and rather than being threatened with failure you recieved a bonus each qurter if you achived it.Sure to God it is a bit over the top to sack someone for not saying sorry and I don't mean he failed to say it on every call but a couple of occasions out of approximately 1800 calls over a six week period.
Addy - 29-Jul-18 @ 9:50 PM
My partner has been threatened with possibly being let go due to his bosses claiming he's on his final warning when in fact he's only on his first written warning. Because my partners bosses arent listening to him regarding this fact I took it along myself to email his head office. Long story short I told them if they fired him we'll have them done for unfair dismissal. Have i made things worse? Can threatening unfair dismissal get someone fired?
Sasha - 12-Jul-18 @ 8:00 PM
wondering is someone could help me out in my old job if you did something that they needed to give you a warning for they had to give you it before you clocked on for your next shift ... they said it was because if you had clocked on and worked more than a hour they were putting the means of the dismiss business above what you have done wrong if this a rule by law or is it just that company's rules
lee - 12-Jul-18 @ 2:37 AM
Hi My husband had an incident this morning and we are wondering about his rights He has been at a company for a year, this morning after a conversation with another staff member - the transport manager got involved, basically my husband was sent home, the manager kept saying to him "you are done" as my husband went to walk off he called him back and said where are you going you are done, go home.My husband is now at home and wondering if he doesn't hear from them does he go into work tomorrow, or does he wait - any advice gratefully received
Personalassis - 4-Jul-18 @ 12:59 PM
I do not want to work Saturday I work Monday through Friday about 50 hours a week I'm out of town all week and a hotel and I go home Friday after work my boss is telling me if I don't want to work Saturday I can just stay home can he legally do that I have been at this company a little over a year I just want to know if he can force me to work Saturday if I already got about 50 hours come Friday
Hook - 28-Jun-18 @ 9:48 PM
Hi my partner had 2 days of work because he was unwell and couldn't ring because we had no credit. He boss gave him he's first warning can he do that?
Channy - 19-Jun-18 @ 7:02 AM
Can a GM of the company ask you to put in your to weeks at a current job and then not sure you?
Char - 6-Jun-18 @ 2:05 AM
Hi I work for 20 hours A week and I have a untreatable condition. Work want a meeting as I may not be able to work full time in the future what do I do? Can work fire me?
Ang - 3-Jun-18 @ 3:25 PM
So I had an induction at work from 7 am till 8 am then got told to start my shift straight away, bare in mind I am 16 years old and they photo copied both my NI number and Passport which does show that I am 16 years old. I got called into the office and fired straight away for not being 18 as It was a warehouse job. Can they do that and fire me on my first day for my age? Full well knowing that I am 16. I worked for about 4 hour in total that day.
Kris - 2-Jun-18 @ 5:26 PM
Hi I have worriking for the company for over 20 years just made a mistake at work and I was called into the office then next day I was sad and thinking about my mistake and it happened again the metal over spilled again now I been suspended till monday and not sure what will happen now never happened before can I be sacked for that fault
Dave - 1-Jun-18 @ 1:05 PM
Dave - Your Question:
Hi, I recently got fired as of this morning and I believe it to be unfair dismissal. I started on the 17th May and it has been 2 weeks to the day. I was called into the office upon starting my shift and got told I was not being kept on. I’m unsure if this is fair due to still being in the probation period (which was 3 months). The reason I was let go is because of my back and hip problems, I’m 22 and have been to the doctor’s and hospital to try and get my problems sorted but they did not want to continue as treatment had a high risk of causing permenant damage. My job was factory work which involves machinery and packing but I was occasionally asked to work in the warehouse unloading containers. I could manage putting the contents of the containers onto pallets but when I was in the container itself, I found that I could not reach for the contents below waist height as it caused my back to seize up and cause me severe pain. This was the only aspect of my job that I could not manage. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thankyou.

Our Response:
You can only claim unfair dismissal if you have worked for your employer for two years or more. If your employer knows you are unable to do all aspects of your job at this stage it's probably reasonable that they can dismiss you unless you are being asked to do something wildly different from your job description.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 12:59 PM
Hi, I recently got fired as of this morning and I believe it to be unfair dismissal. I started on the 17th May and it has been 2 weeks to the day. I was called into the office upon starting my shift and got told I was not being kept on. I’m unsure if this is fair due to still being in the probation period (which was 3 months). The reason I was let go is because of my back and hip problems, I’m 22 and have been to the doctor’s and hospital to try and get my problems sorted but they did not want to continue as treatment had a high risk of causing permenant damage. My job was factory work which involves machinery and packing but I was occasionally asked to work in the warehouse unloading containers. I could manage putting the contents of the containers onto pallets but when I was in the container itself, I found that I could not reach for the contents below waist height as it caused my back to seize up and cause me severe pain. This was the only aspect of my job that I could not manage. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thankyou.
Dave - 31-May-18 @ 8:58 AM
if someone was doing a job without the relative training that should be given and made a mistake should they be liable for that mistake pls
STEPHEN D RIDLER - 29-May-18 @ 4:51 PM
I am in high end retail and am given the most closing shifts while my superiors have opening shifts and every sunday off. I have no work life balance due to closing - i get out most days 11pm and work a majority of weekends. If i say i want to go to college and wont be able to close as many day ( i close 3 out of 5 workdays)can my manager still schedule me
SARAH J SCHOFFSTALL - 29-May-18 @ 2:54 AM
I found a greatjob...lots of customers, great hours...but it has a fast paste ...multy tasking and its needs personality and strong work ethics.THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THE GIRL I AM WORKING WITH (she has only been there 9 months...two girls later)I THINK I AM THE THIRD GIRL ...She said the 19 year old girl she had before was better than me.I was hired as a PREP BREAKFAST COOK...set and replenish a FULL HOT AND COLD BUFFET...8 tables and 24 chairs...and it is busy.I am hopping.The only problem that this girl has with me...she says I don't listen and with her 15 years experience with Tim Horton's and Wendy she knows more than me...I came with this Company with several years as a sous chef and head chef at a lodge.I know how to bake, cook and serve a busy environment.This young lady has threatened me that I was on probation and I could get fired...She claims that I am not helping her by not stocking the required foods for her shift...AND I AM ...SHEHAS ON SEVERAL OCCASION THAT IF I KEEP CLEANING THIS DINING ROOM SHE WOULD LOSE HER JOB...THIS GIRL HATES TO WASH AND CLEAN the areas that demands attention..I have never seen her wash her hands or wear gloves when she handles foods.She said I don't need to wash the doors of the appliances everynight...or wash the floor...you do this when it's quiet...AND THAT WON'T BE SOON...we are so busy...so it takes me an hour to clean a really messy counter...buffet counter...all the trays have to be wiped...I remove all tools and cover I wash all apples...I don't take a break...but I do sit down for a few minutes and refill and sort out the ketchup trays, cheese and butter trays...wash the handle on the milk jug and the food displays...I want every thing to be clean and pleasing...I am quick and precise...I sweep under all the tables, clean the chairs, and wash the floors...empty all the garbage and take them to the dumpsters...I make sure the toasters are free from bread crumbs..we had a fire and IT WON'T HAPPEN AGAIN...NOT WHILE IT IS MY SHIFT...I use three sinks, and use hot water...and I empty the sinks regularly...that really bothers this girl...I change the tools too often...but the eggs dry on the serving tools and I change the standing plates...all this stuff bothers her.I have had talk with the Manager who hired me...and he smiles and says I am doing a great job...Can I get fired if she keeps bullying me.Idon't smoke...I am extremely neat and tidy...short and styled hair.I wear a light make-up and lipstick everyday...I iron all my scrubs and nursing shoes...I am in my sixties soon...and I have been in the restaurant business, retail, I have been a Manager and I recently retired from my own business...I thought I could handle this situation on my own...I DO NOT WANT TO BE FIRED.NOT FOR BEING CLEAN AND INCONSIDERATE TO SOMEONE I WORK WITH... I have never been rude.With all the education and employment that I carefully chose to do...this was was too good...Such a cute dinin
MICKIE - 22-May-18 @ 5:35 AM
DJ - Your Question:
Hi, I recently found out my trainee is on more money than me. I have been with the company for almost a year and he has been there 6 weeks.I confronted my manager and asked why, we do the same job and I am actually training him, we need to be paid equally, regardless of the fact he is male and I am female. My manager and another colleague just looked at me and laughed. I obviously lost my temper and had a go at them as it's not right and downright unprofessional, next thing I know, I'm sacked and escorted off site.I'm aware of the 2 year 'rule', but surely I have been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against as a female asking for equal pay??The company has no policy, no warning, discussion, letters, nothing, they're a disgusting excuse for a company and treat women like crap. I know I'm better off out of it but don't want to let this go cos they'll just keep doing it.

Our Response:
If you were doing an identical job to your male colleague, there may be a case for discrimination. You should contact ACAS and ask them if they consider it worth taking further.
SafeWorkers - 21-May-18 @ 10:44 AM
Hi, I recently found out my trainee is on more money than me.I have been with the company for almost a year and he has been there 6 weeks. I confronted my manager and asked why, we do the same job and I am actually training him, we need to be paid equally, regardless of the fact he is male and I am female.My manager and another colleague just looked at me and laughed.I obviously lost my temper and had a go at them as it's not right and downright unprofessional, next thing I know, I'm sacked and escorted off site. I'm aware of the 2 year 'rule', but surely I have been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against as a female asking for equal pay?? The company has no policy, no warning, discussion, letters, nothing, they're a disgusting excuse for a company and treat women like crap.I know I'm better off out of it but don't want to let this go cos they'll just keep doing it.
DJ - 18-May-18 @ 8:05 PM
I work at our local school and have asked for holiday unpaid in October which has been declined but two other people in the same department have had there holiday approved one for three weeks I want to visit family in the USA but have been told that procedures say no and the others have had it because they checked there medical records.I am 73 i could have gone sick and not said anything but I am to truthful for that but if I did I would get the sack so as it's all booked i will have to retire.
Cathy - 17-May-18 @ 10:56 PM
BlueJumper - Your Question:
I work in a shop where every time we serve a customer we have to ask them if they have a rewards card, and if they say no we have to give them this "persuasive" script which tells them why the card is so amazing. There are exceptions, you know, if you KNOW you've done it with a customer ten times already, you don't have to beat them silly with it, but there is no way you can remember who you've said it to, cos you serve like a thousand customers a week. At least. Anyway, some customers are sick of being asked every time, and they are quite nasty about it. I would like to know if I have the right as an employee to put my foot down and say that I don't want to do the speech any more. I get verbal abuse from customers as a result of it. Where do I stand? If I say no, can they fire me? Don't I have a choice to avoid verbal abuse? If I worked in an office I would have the right not to be abused verbally by my colleagues, so surely I should have the right to avoid abuse from customers in this way?

Our Response:
If your employer's policy is that you ask customers if they would like a reward card/persuade them to have one, then that's what you should do.
SafeWorkers - 15-May-18 @ 3:15 PM
I work in a shop where every time we serve a customer we have to ask them if they have a rewards card, and if they say no we have to give them this "persuasive" script which tells them why the card is so amazing. There are exceptions, you know, if you KNOW you've done it with a customer ten times already, you don't have to beat them silly with it, but there is no way you can remember who you've said it to, cos you serve like a thousand customers a week. At least. Anyway, some customers are sick of being asked every time, and they are quite nasty about it. I would like to know if I have the right as an employee to put my foot down and say that I don't want to do the speech any more. I get verbal abuse from customers as a result of it. Where do I stand? If I say no, can they fire me? Don't I have a choice to avoid verbal abuse? If I worked in an office I would have the right not to be abused verbally by my colleagues, so surely I should have the right to avoid abuse from customers in this way?
BlueJumper - 11-May-18 @ 10:12 PM
I’ve worked for 5 yrs as health care assistant. I refused to work with a colleague,my manager told me either work with this person or go home. I left my shift that day and now my manager is going to disaplineor sack me for neglect . Can they do this.
Corra - 3-May-18 @ 10:06 PM
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