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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 28 Mar 2020 | 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 had a accident at work were I work dropped a pallet of eggs and tided it up and put in to barrels the next day I was approached by the owner of the company and told me he wasn’t getting rid of the contaminated waste and that I was to take it and get rid of it or you don’t have a job (blackmail) do I have a case
Emmzie - 28-Mar-20 @ 10:56 AM
My friend was offered a full time position during his probation, however he went into work yesterday and they told him they cant give him the job now. Is this fair
Tim - 24-Mar-20 @ 11:26 AM
I've been working in my current job for 5 and a half months. The probation period is 3 months bit I have never had a review. I thought this meant I was still on probation until they signed me off. I want to give a weeks notice to work somewhere else but have just been told that even of they haven't signed me off I still have finished probation. I read that there is a loophole to this saying that the final review should be done in a reasonable time. So how long is a reasonable amount of time.
Holly - 14-Mar-20 @ 1:15 PM
My boss fired me for gross misconductfor forgetting to lock the shops gate on two different occasions and he didn't have any hearings with me. He also didn't explain to me what gross misconduct is I only found out what it means when I reported the case at the ccma .Is it unfair dismissal
ferlyn - 6-Mar-20 @ 10:14 AM
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PROMISELASS - 22-Feb-20 @ 8:35 PM
My daughter was on apprenticeship for a year and a half she text to say she was ill went into work and was told she sat bearing in mind she never took much time off and the day before she’s just finished her apprenticeship can he do this
Kitty - 19-Feb-20 @ 8:16 PM
I had an emergency on the 14th that my 3 Yr old boy is sick. I called my colleague to cover my work while attending to the emergency it slept off my mind calling my supervisor and asking approval because of I was panicking. Now I got a letter of dismissal and am going for hearing on the 5th. I gave him proof medical certificate. Chances of me being dismissed? Must I bring witnesses?
Lihle - 31-Jan-20 @ 7:34 AM
So have been working for my employer for just over 2 years.Been some ups and downs with personality’s but generally ok.We are all working to the extreme to get things done.I’ve had some issues with staff due to personality but these has been sorted. However since then I’ve tried to be low key and not get involved or give my opinion.Everything’s fine till yesterday. My boss threatened me with my job basically saying I am the problem in the office and how I am effects the others??! No idea where this has come from I’ve had no issues in the office in the periods he’s mentioned and it’s side swiped me.He knows I’ve suffered Domestic Violence and we have a very loud aggressive male in the office who is allowed to kick off and swear as he like but I’m not allowed to react to that, nor am I allowed to swear at raise my voice. So I don’t now.Yet I’m being threatened for I have no idea what
Blade - 21-Jan-20 @ 6:58 AM
My 17 year old daughter has been working at a restaurant, everything was fine until last week when they did not put her on the rota and now this week her name is not even on the rota. Shes asked if she still has a job but they are not replying. Is this legal?
Kaz - 15-Dec-19 @ 9:27 PM
I was fired today with immediate affect due to absence. I have 2 children who I have had to have appointments or sick days for. Also I was signed off by a doctor with mental Health issues for 2 weeks. And then I had a car accident last week and they fired me after having to attend the hospital is this legal? This is spread over 18 months
K - 10-Dec-19 @ 4:59 AM
I've had a shoulder injury for 3 years that happened before I started employment at my current job. For this injury I've been undergoing physio and medication wich has not helped. I've been advised not go strain my arm at work or it wont heal. This advice was ignored by my employer and forcing me to work a position that requires me to carry things like TVs. A few months ago I injured myself on my day off skating. NHS prescribed more physio with no progress being made after 3 months it looks like we will have to consider surgery. I've recently been put under new management and it's been decided I will need to go under a development program wich if failed results in a disciplinary. Is there anything I can do?
Chris - 4-Dec-19 @ 10:02 PM
Does anyone know if you can get sacked for having 2 jobs,also having depression caused by an accident at work Jan this year whilst not having two jobs.Thanks
Shaymus - 2-Dec-19 @ 2:24 AM
It is a month before Christmas Can I call my boss and tell them i can not work that day It is my child's 1st Christmas
Bri - 29-Nov-19 @ 6:42 PM
Boss had a little fine and he wants his staff to pay and we work 25 pound a day age18can he do that
Jo - 28-Nov-19 @ 12:43 AM
I was terminated failure to complete compliance do you have any lawyers that know about this
Papo - 26-Nov-19 @ 8:32 PM
Hi my boss has said she will do the Christmas period Rota if we don't like what she puts us down for then we will get our p45 . I said I don't have family near by and she said that's not my problem you will do what I say if not p45 will be issued, can she do that?
Kj - 20-Nov-19 @ 4:53 PM
I have a coffee tract that says I would to night shift as and when required. It actually works that I am in 2 weeks day shift and two weeks night shift. I am having health problems with this rota and it looks like my doctor will be saying I can’t do night shift. After saying this to my boss I was referred to HR where they said if I can’t do night shift it may be a sackable offence. Is this true?
Boaner - 19-Nov-19 @ 1:29 PM
I work in a care home. I really really dont want to have the reponsibilty of administration medication. Can my manager force me to do this as she seems adamant I'm going to and can she sack me if I stick to my guns and refuse.
Rach Wheaver - 12-Nov-19 @ 4:33 PM
Ive been sacked for racial abuse over lies by a colleague. the person i allegedly abused says he had a witness, this witness has lied..I have a witness who was at the scene and they say i didnt say anything,,also a witness given against me has actually stated the contrary to what was alleged and said that i did not say anything either. so they have a witness who says i did, but ive got a witness who says i didnt!! Theyve sacked me on a probability...how can they when there is witnesses that i didnt say it?
Rusty - 1-Nov-19 @ 12:39 PM
I have been dismissed for writing a text to my manager, it reads thus: The whole you digging for you are Digging it for yourself, ever since I Was employed in this company, you create problems for me with the Boss. Do you see that you are causing stress for the Boss, are you happy with that. God will punish you for all the false accusations you have against me. I was first accused for being late and absent I was also accused for not doing my work properly. Luckily I went through disciplinary and appeal hearing and I was found not guilty, it was a lie made by my manager against me. My boss called to give me the appeal decision, and he told me I was found not guilty for all the of fences laid against me except for the massage, and as for the massage he is firing me. I never got a single warning I never got a single notice too. Was I fairly dismissed. I need help.
Sthera - 29-Oct-19 @ 1:20 PM
I am serspendid from work but i haven't had any communication from my employerswhat do i do .they have offerd me another job on a diffrent site but less money
Pinkie - 7-Oct-19 @ 12:20 PM
Been working 9hrs a week for company. Been with the company 3 half years . I move from site to site but this time they are letting me go. Need to no my rights!
Denmarie - 2-Oct-19 @ 7:21 PM
I was working for a hotel for over 6 months..I've now had no hours.for 8 months..everytime I get intouch with them alls I get is sorry Emma no hours..yet all the other staff have got hours..except for me can I take this matter further..ie to a tribunal?
Em - 5-Aug-19 @ 2:02 PM
I have been working for a company for nearly 2 years and for the last 7 months I haven't been paid. - I am leaving next week but because of this am I required to give notice or can I just get up and leave?
Charlotte - 23-Jun-19 @ 8:46 AM
Hi iv been having a few issues at work and some of my colleagues accusing me of theft which I’d never do yesterday whilst at work I over heard one of the girls saying that food had gone missing but never thought any more of it as I was with a client a short while after I was told that I had to have my bag searched as someone had told management that I was the one taking food our bags are always left in reach if everyone as they don’t accommodate lockers or a safe place to store them as my bag was being searched they came across a bag of sugar in which I was shocked was there too I got told that they were gonna contact head office and that I’d hear back from them no one was willing to listen to my side of the story but I put the sugar back into the kitchen leaving without it on me an hour later I received a call stating that I was sacked in the spot due to gross misconduct can they do this
Gem - 20-Jun-19 @ 10:15 AM
can I get fired from both jobs if I don’t turn up to one but work at the other job with the same company
Bob - 17-Jun-19 @ 5:40 PM
I have similar issues and I don’t k ow what to do with my manager she is very very bad and bullies me constantly she puts me down in front of others , what’s worst I am her assistant and she treats me very dismissive in front of other staff they even said “ we can see she is treating you like dog, she doesn’t do this to anyone “ I need to get out but can’t afford it so I end up going to work in a toxic environment but then coming home crying my self to sleep and drinking alcohol so that I forget things She has brought the depression in me and I hate my self because of her I even thought of suicide many times
Me - 15-Jun-19 @ 9:35 PM
I worked for one of the big companies; my manager gave me lots of verbal, psychological and emotional abuse. I try to manage it because he always threatened me with dismissal and always micro managed me despite knowing fully well I am more than capable, always wanting me to be too submissive, which I tried doing. I lost my self-confidence because of his manipulation (always having nightmare) and I pushed back after 1 year and he managed to get me dismissed. I was down mentally and emotionally and tried to focus on getting another job. After 6 months, can I take any action against such behavior by my manager?
JSurbiton - 11-Jun-19 @ 10:53 AM
I have been bullied in both jobs once to working from 7am to 7pm in a factory from 2003 to 2009 the bullying stopped at the end of 2004 because some other woman started working there she was autistic and the bullying stopped at me but carried on with her. Everything was shovedunder the carpet there wasnt anyone to talk to at the time. It was verbal abuse and emotional abuse this went on for well over a year back in 2003 to the end of 2004. Even now i sit at home and cry for many hours because of what did happen to me i had staff call me names spread rumors and post things about me on the work board. Ive been screamed at in front of others i left the factory i worked in in 2009 i ended up with a breakdown and panic attacks because of this i also ended up with severe depression because of the bullying that occured. Sometimes you dont become ill or have mental illness until many years later it can effect you then in many ways. I left there in 2009 because bullying started again i had employees be verbally abusive and name calling and it was affecting my health so i left just walked out and havent looked back i had someone else leave the factory to many years later she to said she was bullied emotionally and verbally it was always the same group of women doing it. I also did some volunteering work in Grimsby as a kitchen assistant for few months it was fine at first then the bullying started it got worse when i came back i was told by the supervisor i looked like a child she shouted this out in front of every one i felt belittled i am small in height and do look young for my age she also made commets about the way i looked publically humiliated me in front of the manager and other people and staff. She shouted at me to inappropriate behaviour especially when she was laughing and pointing her finger at me on several occasions. After the serious knee injury i had i just said to the manager that i cant come back here and that i dont think its fair for me to be here if i cant do the jobs i also said that i gave you a doctors note to say that i cant stand on chairs but yet the supervisor is letting me stand on things which i cant and i got shouted at by her all day today i also said today will be my last day working here i got my stuff and walked out went straight to the job center asked to see someone got a appointment and told this woman in the job center i did volunteering work from this company told her exactly what happened and what was said the woman behind the job center desk was on my side she sorted everything out for me and she did investigated on why i was treated in this way and i was right i should not be made to do things. I did get a written and verbal apology and futher action was taken to they did investigate who did the bullying and futher action was taken. People need to fight back and say no this kind of bullying isnt acceptable and that emotional bullying verbal abuse is in deed more damaging then physical abuse physical abuse you c
Lil - 31-May-19 @ 2:35 AM
I used to do voluntering work in a kitchen some years back now in 2014 for just over 3 months. I had a accident while i was out seeing a friend trip over something and landed very badly on my knee cap. I had severe swelling damage cartridge muscle damage and severe tissue damage it was a 3 month to 9 month knee injury to say the least. I went back to this place some months later and i said to them what the doctor in hospital had told me i had the evidence there to say i couldnt bend down swat or stand on anything but i be happy to mop the floor or cook food etc. The supervisor made a really immature commet that i looked like a 12 year old girl she was talking to a 34 year old woman at a time i thought it was completely inappropriate commet. I shugged it off i returned to the kitchen the next day and was told to stand on a chair i told this supervisor i couldnt because of my knee injury she shouted abuse at me and made some really inappropriate comments snide remarks etc i felt bullied i told the manager that i couldnt stand on any chairs or do anything like that and that it was best for everyone that i left. I did leave that day walked out and reported this supervisor in tears when i saw another woman at the job centre and told what this supervisor had said the job center woman was horrified on whati told her what and was said to me signed me off sick immediately i could also claim for disability allowence to. She rang the company up and on my behalf reported this supervisor to the main head company office. I eventurally did get a full apology from this company that sent me there and some action was taken against the supervisor. Bullies in one way or another do get their comeuppance and karma does get them back. No body should ever be spoken to like that and belittled. I dont know if the place is still open or if she is still their working as supervisor but for someone to do that to someone belittle them and degrade them in front of others its public humiliating. If anyone is going through this thrmselves right what was said at home document everything get witnessess and report them no one should ever disrespect you in that way.
Lil - 31-May-19 @ 1:20 AM
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