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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 22 Jul 2017 | 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
I only have a four hour contract but always do about twenty plus hours a week. My manager has said she will no longer be letting me do any overtime due to my attitude at work lately. However I haven't had an attitude and feel this is a personal issue between is that has gone on. Is she allowed to take away my overtime? Also other staff have been in much worse trouble and have never has this happen to them feels very unfair.
Blyesky - 11-Jul-17 @ 6:44 PM
Pk - Your Question:
Hi. I'm a chef de partie for a restaurant. My supervisor is going around to my employees telling them that he's getting my job and my boss is going to fire me in a month. My contract doesn't end until October and I have done nothing wrong. If this is true is it legal for them to do this ?

Our Response:
If there's any truth in this you should talk to your employer about it - most employers have a documented procedure for this.
SafeWorkers - 5-Jul-17 @ 2:38 PM
Hi. I'm a chef de partie for a restaurant. My supervisor is going around to my employees telling them that he's getting my job and my boss is going to fire me in a month. My contract doesn't end until October and I have done nothing wrong. If this is true is it legal for them to do this ?
Pk - 5-Jul-17 @ 4:55 AM
MandyG - Your Question:
I have been fired for gross misconduct. Two days before this I left work at my contracted time, but when I left, me, my colleagues and my boss were having a discussion regarding lunches. My boss then starts shout at me untill I ending up crying, at this point she tells me everything is okay, and asks that I will definitely turn up to work tomorrow, because we will be sort staffed if not. I said yes, and the next day I came in and nobody mentioned the events of the previous night. I assumed everything was back to normal,untill the next day. Near the end of my shift, my bosses boss asks me to follow her in to a meeting room, this is where my boss and my bosses boss inform they are fireing me immediately for gross misconduct (with no option to appeal) for leaving work (after working my full contracted hours) two days earlier.I hope this all make sense!I just wanted to know if I had any legal recourse?

Our Response:
If the facts are correct and you have worked for your employer for more than two years, you should contact ACASto find out whether unfair dismissal has occurred.
SafeWorkers - 30-Jun-17 @ 2:31 PM
Jewels - Your Question:
I have been changed to 7-3 shift from 3-11 due to a change in the company.i am the only one affected by this change.i have been doing 3-11 shift for 3 years I told management several times I can not one of the 7-3 shifts due to another conmittment. Can they fire me

Our Response:
If your contract does not specify certain shifts, you can be asked to work any of the shifts available (within the working time regulations). If you feel you have been discriminated against, you should follow the advice on this site. Try our Discrimination Section
SafeWorkers - 30-Jun-17 @ 2:15 PM
Lainey - Your Question:
Hi ive been working for my employer since august 2016 , ive had time off due to operation on my foot and most recently due to a cyst bursting in the back of my knee., xray showed up osteoarthritis in my knee , now my employer is terminating my contract saying ive let the team down.i cant help having health problems can she do this

Our Response:
Unfortunately an employer can review an employee's position if they have above average absence levels. Until you've worked for an employer for more than two years you cannot file an unfair dismissal claim.
SafeWorkers - 27-Jun-17 @ 1:43 PM
Redmatt76 - Your Question:
I'm a support worker and the new manager has told all support workers have to do medication training those who do'nt will be fired. The training is not a part of mandatory training. Is the manager within his rights to sack people if they refuse to do the training?Its an extra 1 pound an hour for huge responsability.

Our Response:
This depends on your contract. If you're expected to undertake training and additional repsonsibilities as part of your contract, there isn't much you can do about this. If you have a copy of your contract it might be worth talking to ACAS or Citizens' Advice with the contract to hand.
SafeWorkers - 27-Jun-17 @ 10:20 AM
Hi ive been working for my employer since august 2016 , ive had time off due to operation on my foot and most recently due to a cyst bursting in the back of my knee ., xray showed up osteoarthritis in my knee , now my employer is terminating my contract saying ive let the team down .i cant help having health problems can she do this
Lainey - 25-Jun-17 @ 4:49 PM
I'm a support worker and the new manager has told all support workers have to do medication training those who do'nt will be fired. The training is not a part of mandatory training. Is the manager within his rights to sack people if they refuse to do the training? Its an extra 1 pound an hour for huge responsability.
Redmatt76 - 24-Jun-17 @ 9:57 AM
Colt - Your Question:
I have a 3 year old daughter who's mother rarely lets me see her since we split up. I had received a phone call informing me that I could see her that day. The problem was I would be working all day and miss my chance. It had been a week since I last saw her. I told the boss the situation and he told me that if I leave early I would be fired. I chose my family. Now I'm jobless and can't even pay my bills.

Our Response:
You need to sort out you child contact arrangements really. If your ex will not agree to regular pre-arranged contact days, then try mediation to draw up an agreement. If that doesn't work you should consider court action - stress to your ex that if you don't have a job you won't be paying as much maintenance, thatmay make her cooperate.
SafeWorkers - 20-Jun-17 @ 2:31 PM
Nate - Your Question:
Can I be fired for not doing stocktack

Our Response:
Probably if it's a task you've been asked specifically to do, or it forms part of your job role's tasks.
SafeWorkers - 20-Jun-17 @ 2:27 PM
I have a 3 year old daughter who's mother rarely lets me see her since we split up. I had received a phone call informing me that I could see her that day. The problem was I would be working all day and miss my chance. It had been a week since I last saw her. I told the boss the situation and he told me that if I leave early I would be fired. I chose my family. Now I'm jobless and can't even pay my bills.
Colt - 18-Jun-17 @ 10:15 PM
Can I be fired for not doing stocktack
Nate - 18-Jun-17 @ 9:46 PM
My husband has worked for a company for 15 years on the same shift for at least 10 years. Recently the company has been taken over and they have decided to change the shift pattern. Currently it's 11-7 but they want to change it to alternate weeks 7-3 and 3-11. The problem we have is my husband take my son to kickboxing lessons on a night while I take my daughter else where. So the 3-11 isn't ideal. He has explained this to his employer but they say this isn't a good enough reason as it's not educational and I will have to change my plans to take our son if he still wants to go. My husband told them this is unfair as they don't have a right to tell me what I should be doing when I'm not employed by the firm. We are in fear they may dismiss him. Is this grounds to unfair dismissal?
Usinnit - 16-Jun-17 @ 8:56 PM
I have been fired for gross misconduct. Two days before this i left work at my contracted time, but when i left, me, my colleagues and my boss were having a discussion regarding lunches. My boss then starts shout at me untill I ending up crying, at this point she tells me everything is okay, and asks that i will definitely turn up to work tomorrow, because we will be sort staffed if not. I said yes, and the next day i came in and nobody mentioned the events of the previous night. I assumed everything was back to normal, untill the next day... Near the end of my shift, my bosses boss asks me to follow her in to a meeting room, this is where my boss and my bosses boss inform they are fireing me immediately for gross misconduct(with no option to appeal) for leaving work (after working my full contracted hours) two days earlier. I hope this all make sense! I just wanted to know if i had any legal recourse?
MandyG - 16-Jun-17 @ 10:41 AM
I have been changed to 7-3 shift from 3-11 due to a change in the company....i am the only one affected by this change ..i have been doing 3-11 shift for 3 years i told management several times i can not one of the 7-3 shifts due to another conmittment.. Can they fire me
Jewels - 16-Jun-17 @ 3:15 AM
I was employed on the basis I was flexible I could work a Saturday maybe every other and at the time of interview I did but unfortunately I no longer have that childcare so now can't. I have done every other day and am available Sundays at least one weekend day. If I can't do Saturdays this is not fully flexible apparently and have been asked to quit even tho I actually want the job
Kerry - 9-Jun-17 @ 10:44 AM
Chi - Your Question:
I was wondering if you could be fired from requesting/taking to many holidays if you are on a zero hour contract. i.e. i've been taking a week holiday roughly every month or two so I was wondering if my employer could eventually fire me for that? would they have to inform me that I'm taking too many holidays beforehand as a warning?

Our Response:
On a genuine zero hours contract you can refuse work when offered it and your employer can choose when to give you work. If you are not paid for the times you don't work (because effectively you've chosen to take time off/holiday) then you can do this whenever you like. If you are on a contract which stipulates a certain number of paid holidays, then this is likely not to be a zero hours contract.
SafeWorkers - 6-Jun-17 @ 12:35 PM
Hi I went to work on fri it was not a contracted day so I was told I wouldn't get paid for it so after an hour I walked out told them I had to go when I went to work on the Sunday my contracted day I was told I'd been fired by the hr department for walking out can they do this
Matt - 6-Jun-17 @ 7:09 AM
I've been with my current employer approx 5 months but got told this morning it's not working out from the 30th June I am no longer employed can they do this I was only on 3 month probation which was up in April
Jude - 5-Jun-17 @ 4:48 PM
I was wondering if you could be fired from requesting/taking to many holidays if you are on a zero hour contract. i.e. i've been taking a week holiday roughly every month or two so i was wondering if my employer could eventually fire me for that? would they have to inform me that i'm taking too many holidays beforehand as a warning?
Chi - 3-Jun-17 @ 4:05 PM
Can I be sacked on the spot if I have an argument with someone who I do not work with in any way.. whilst at home outside of my working hour, but then the person I argued with then argues with someone who I work with in the car park of the place I work?
Holl - 2-Jun-17 @ 4:59 PM
I have a zero hour contract. I along with two contracted workers have been suspended. I have worked for the company for 8 years,zero contract for 3. Am I, like the contracted workers, entitled to pay while suspended?
Karen001 - 31-May-17 @ 6:43 PM
Steph0105 - Your Question:
I was hired by a company with a 3 month probation period. 5 months later they decided to do a probation review and extend my probation by one min. They then did another review and extended again for 6 weeks. They then sacked me. By this point I have been with the company 8 months. Are they aloud to do this?

Our Response:
No, this sounds like something you can take action about. An probationary period cannot be extended if it has passed without any comment or action from an employer. Give a ACAS a call.
SafeWorkers - 30-May-17 @ 11:58 AM
I was hired by a company with a 3 month probation period. 5 months later they decided to do a probation review and extend my probation by one min. They then did another review and extended again for 6 weeks. They then sacked me. By this point I have been with the company 8 months. Are they aloud to do this?
Steph0105 - 27-May-17 @ 2:22 PM
Hi, i have been sacked after 9 shifts for saying a manager is in office a lot, I done everything I was asked and told and not even given notice
Ni - 23-May-17 @ 3:24 PM
Cliff1975 - Your Question:
I Started work for a company doing Summer Resources on easter Friday. At the interview I was asked for I.D and told them I did not have Passport or Birth Cert but did have uk citizencard p45 national insurance number uk drivers license and letters from d.w.p jobcentre plus. They said it be fine. A month later they say I cannot stay at work and it will end if I don't provide passport? Hhhheeelllpp.

Our Response:
You can order a copy of your birth certificate from the General Register Office. If you're a UK citizen and have never owned a passport, this should be sufficient for the company.
SafeWorkers - 17-May-17 @ 2:38 PM
I Started work for a company doing Summer Resources on easter Friday. At the interview I was asked for I.D and told them I did not have Passport or Birth Cert but did have uk citizencard p45 national insurance number uk drivers license and letters from d.w.p jobcentre plus. They said it be fine. A month later they say I cannot stay at work and it will end if I don't provide passport? Hhhheeelllpp.
Cliff1975 - 16-May-17 @ 8:06 PM
My manager called me into the office and said he has asked/told me to ring a client and he has given me that much of a workload that i forgot to call them.Now my manager said if i forget to do what he asks one more time he will have no choice but to give me a final written warning i have never felt so undervalued or indermined in all my life. Ishe allowed to do this
janey - 10-May-17 @ 9:33 PM
Dodge - Your Question:
I'm a flt driver but have to share trucks , the other man as worked there longer than me so calls for it & gets it. which means I have to walk round for 8 hrs. If I refuse to go into work till I have a truck n do the job I'm employed to do will I be sacked?

Our Response:
This depends on the terms of your contract. Are you told to be in at certain times etc? Sorry there's not enough information.
SafeWorkers - 9-May-17 @ 2:42 PM
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