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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 14 Mar 2021 | 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


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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I made some home made goods and asked my boss that if I was properly insured could I sell them in his shop and give him a cut of the profit.He said I would be able to so when I got my insuranceI put some out for sale.A few days later one of my colleagues told my supervisor that I was selling them and when she asked him if he knew he said no!Now I am terrified that I am going to be accused of trying to steal although none of the goods were actually sold.I have been employed for nearly 5 years and my service has so far been exemplary.
Matt - 14-Mar-21 @ 5:14 PM
Hi can an employer fire a member of staff in front of other staff? Thank you
Chas - 19-Dec-20 @ 7:04 PM
I'm working since 2011 with a small hotel from London, recently since I'm on the furlough my boss tell me I have to work 2 days per week free because already I have the government money so he start to treating me to pay him weekly amount of payers fee what he has to pay from his side and if I don't pay him ,hi will take me out from the payroll and under the furlough as well .So please I need some advice what I have to do ....I want to know if he is taking me out from the payroll and fired me ,what can I do to get the furlough money
Mely - 30-Nov-20 @ 8:02 PM
My employer and social services have suspended me for 2.5 months, now my employer is saying they will sack me for gross misconduct unless I resigne. So I feel forced to leave. My employer said they didn't want to do this but the social worker has forced them to. I did put a complaint in against the social worker because she doesn't like me and heard nothing about it. If I leave is this classes as constructive dismissal?
M - 30-Oct-20 @ 9:24 PM
One of mi colleagues complain i was asleep during the night shift but is not true i was watching mi fone on a serial in Prime ..and I have mi foot up.it was between 2,40 -5in the morning and evrithig was done by me ,,how I can prove this is true .All this allegations they are false
Simona Jurchescu - 23-Oct-20 @ 12:06 AM
Where do I stand my boss at My Work told me that he had a complaint from a customer. He said he would let me know about what decision he was going to make. I am still waiting for this decision. This was on the 22nd of July. I have text him and asked him with no reply from him. I saw him he told me he would get in touch and I’m still waiting. I have had no warning or been suspended. But he has Still paying my 16 hours still paying my 16 hours. I have given him a sick note stating work related stress. Then on the 12th of October he knocked on my door and gave me some Wage slips and a P 45 what can I do about it
Muss - 13-Oct-20 @ 7:05 AM
I had a job where house comes with job I got the sack by letter but the letter is not letter headed by firm I worked for is it legal
Lola - 9-Oct-20 @ 9:00 PM
Would 2 nhs employee get sack for accidentally drop a patient while hoisting? The patient is fine.
F - 25-Sep-20 @ 2:37 PM
I work in an Education Setting (further education) and although I am an office worker and been able to work from home, my employer decided that despite the government's recommendations, everyone should continue working in the office. I'm extremely upset with this and would like to know if they can fire me if I refuse to go to the office and continue working from home. Many Thanks.
EN - 24-Sep-20 @ 11:43 AM
I have just been dismissed for gross misconduct. I used my mobile phone while sitting on my forklift,switched off, keys out and not sitting in driver position. The company has policies about mobile phone use.,butin my department it was common practice to use them. Even my manager called me
Fallingdown - 19-Sep-20 @ 10:55 AM
A friend who is deputy manager at an hotel has been told she will be sacked today for asking a member of staff who is on sick to come in because they are so short staffed ,is this gross misconduct or a serious misdemeanor
Oldie - 16-Sep-20 @ 1:00 PM
A friend of mine was working as a sales assistant in retail and got promoted to supervisor earlier this year a new manger started in march who is bossy, a bully, lazy incapable of her job on her first shift she threw something at my friend she has decided enough is enough and has written a letter requesting her position be dropped back down to sales she has been told it's be a supervisor or leave what can she do?
Dusty - 6-Sep-20 @ 1:00 PM
My colleague was fired after he finished his job. The supervisor found him sitting and sleeping. Is it right? Fire someone without chance? Whete he should go to defend hiself?
Fab - 1-Sep-20 @ 8:44 PM
The head chef keeps moaning at me because and thinks I do not do my job properly I can.t go to the management what should I do walk away from the job or get another job eny advise please
Can - 31-Aug-20 @ 3:53 PM
I work at warehouse where I was driving a reachtruck then o this other dayI mistakenly dropped a full pallet then I got fired fir that mistake .
Mapunya Chris - 25-Aug-20 @ 2:59 PM
I started a job 3 months ago as a coordinator at a charity. My HR called me demanding me to come in to work within 3 hours. I asked why I was not given a day’s notice and all she said was that regardless she needed me to come in. I felt violated and undermined- like I had no choice but to accept. Is this right for her to do this?
Takwane - 25-Aug-20 @ 8:00 AM
I workning in a warehouse packing clothesthey introducedgloves about 2 years ago I had a final warning for not wearing my gloves but that was over a year ago and now my record has no live warnings.i have just gone back after furlough and with sanitasing my hands I've packed for a while without my gloves they have took it to disciplinaryagain . Can i get an instant dismissal because I've done it before or not coz it was a year ago.Id rather put my notice in before I'm sacked if i know theregoing to do that x
Jojo - 19-Aug-20 @ 2:13 AM
Need Advice: worked at the Motor Engineering company for 8 years but not registered for UIF,is it fair to just fire me without giving me anything for the service that I worked
Picks - 18-Aug-20 @ 1:55 PM
I work for a large care home, I self shielded for 3 months due to the coronavirus, and have since returned to work on a reduced schedule as I had stipulated for my safety as I'm on an individual risk assessment having chronic athsma, but a couple of weeks ago I went into the work place for my shift, there was no PPE on hand for me, I had to travel the building in search of it, at which point I was then informed they had a suspected covid case, surely being on arisk assessment they should have informed me before I entered the building,now I feel like there not taking my own safety serious enough, I had walked out that day and left a note stating that I didnt feel safe in that environment,but now they wish me to return....they said the test was false and has since came back negative,but I think there saying that just to calm my fears, its literally impossible for any social distancing to be implemented in the workplace and I feel scared that if I return again it could be for the last time....I live alone and I'm a private renter so I'm worried if I refuse to go back and get dismissed would I be entitled to benefits and would I lose my home. It's so unfair to feel i have to choose between my health and safety or my home.
Gem - 18-Aug-20 @ 11:40 AM
I work in a small butty shop after 3 months the owner told me she was letting me go due to a complaint from a customer about undercooked sausage she pointed out that on temp charts I'd put temps at 77 not over 80 she said she was happy with my work other than this to which I said I can easily correct this she now wants to give me a written warning and 6 weeks probation or I can leave is this legal
Shelly - 17-Aug-20 @ 7:55 AM
I work as nanny and domestic worker not registered working over 4 years now because I lost my father there was a funeral at home they sent a message that I must stayed 3 weeks at home to monitor my self for covid19 at the end of months didn't pay my full salary when I ask they fired me.
Jabu - 10-Aug-20 @ 8:46 AM
Can you get fired because you walked out of the work place after having enough of someone bullying you? I’m worried I’ll loose my job
L - 9-Aug-20 @ 4:51 PM
Due to being very short staffed on my shift at a Care home I capably and safely hoisted a patient on my own with no problems, the patients care plan states 2 staff to hoist, I am now under investigation with my work, Have I committed misconduct will I get sacked for this?
Caz - 6-Aug-20 @ 10:13 PM
I want to ask something if i informed my work that i hve problems at home an i cant always go in to work an they hve a problem with me bot going in but of i cant go in i message them can they tell me they can fire me as absconding if i dnt want to resign
Cassie - 4-Aug-20 @ 11:27 PM
I have been given a gross misconduct charge for health and safety breach I walked on pallets to put stickers on to be shelved but there was no space around pallets so that was only way I could put them on but whoever took them off trailer must be at fault surely I have had meeting and they put final warning on me from having a clean record
Melvon Patterson - 3-Aug-20 @ 12:00 PM
I was working as food and beverage manager at the holiday inn and i have not been there for too long when Coronavirus hit and I was made furloughed. Several months down the line I received a letter saying that I am fired because it’s not working etc when before she said that she was happy with my job. She said that she will pay me one month and holidays etc but I’m really upset about that. Can they actually do that? Thanks ??
Miguel - 2-Aug-20 @ 1:05 AM
I am employed on leave of absence due to my medical issues by my doctor plus my age sixty eight years old, one co worker was fired now lm told l can't have contact with her or l will be fired, can they do this?
Debs - 18-Jul-20 @ 1:14 AM
I did night shift last night.my manager and deputy came for check at around 3am. She then met me in sofa were I put bed sheet and made myself comfortableshe then told me you're not sleeping at the moment but you made your self comfortable that means youare going to sleep not so. Which I just answered" yes".that the only thing came to my head because it has never happened to see manager can leave her bed at 3am.. so it was a soaked she is saying now she will make sacked from other job? It is ture.
Hawa - 12-Jul-20 @ 9:51 AM
My boss text me at half 8 on the Sunday to demand I come work in another unit the next day (my day off) I said no and then he went off on me saying my hours would be cut the following week, I’m not a team player because I don’t want to help out. First off it was his mistake he made because he was lazy, secondly every time he has demanded I work. It has been the day before, I have scheduled appointments for these days I have off as they are very regularly my days off. I’m going back to work this week, worried he might just sack me due to covid because they have changed to make and use this as his reason. Any help ?
Reecey - 7-Jul-20 @ 2:24 AM
I’ve been working all the through the pandemic long hours 11 to 12 a day 5 days a week I have complained that some days I couldn’t do the extra time and I was told by my line manager and manager that if I don’t like it find another job my working hours are 7:30 to 5:30 without time for a break also the extra time was unpaid now they have started to bring other staff back the hours have gone down but they have me doing multiple jobs I normally work in telesales but I’ve been driving working the trade counter picking the phone calls up and working in the warehouse I also get sent to other local branches to help them I have been blamed for a mistake in a order today and I wasn’t even at the branch so we had a discussion about it and all I was told if I didn’t like it don’t come back Can these managers get away with this
R - 25-Jun-20 @ 6:37 PM
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