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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 14 Apr 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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After having 5 individual days off sick over previous 20 months in May 2016 I was warned that if I had 2 days off sick (termed as unauthorized absence) in next 12 months I could be sanctioned up to and including dismissal. This has happened and I have been dismissed. Is this fair and reasonable?
Pod - 14-Apr-17 @ 5:59 PM
can i be fired from my workplace for doing something a senior member of staff has asked me to do? My foreman at work told me to park a vehicle in a certain area, it was neither unsafe or causing any harm. But another senior member of staff has seen me park this vehicle here and is now going through the process of firing me for gross misconduct :(
danny - 12-Apr-17 @ 4:14 PM
Elton - Your Question:
Can an employer fire you for a job you were not contracted to do? When I queried with the employer about a new contract to define my duties I was sworn and threatened with dismissal. After 2 years of working like this the employer found an excuse to fire me. I was not hired as a driver and had to daily fulfill duties that a senior was contracted to do. Please help with advice as I don't know how to move forward.

Our Response:
If you were being asked to carry out duties not in your contract, then you should be able to take action for breach of contract. See our guide here
SafeWorkers - 12-Apr-17 @ 12:34 PM
I have worked at my last job for just under a year, half way through my day they pull me aside to say that there isn't enough work any more and sent me home. I was assured they would pay me for the month that I worked. Yesterday was my pay day and I haven't received a penny. Tried to contact the md and finance department but as I know from when I worked there... They dodge these phone calls well. Please can someone advise me? They are making life very difficult for me at the moment. Thanks.
h.c - 12-Apr-17 @ 9:34 AM
I work roughly 30 hours a week my new rota was done I was to work 30 hours again then two days into the rota my boss said I was to be took off the rota till he spoke to me he hasn't given me a call will I still get paid for the hours I'm ment to work I've never received a contract even tho I'm a bar manager I've been there about 3 months on these hours
Maz - 12-Apr-17 @ 9:23 AM
Can an employer fire you for a job you were not contracted to do? When i queried with the employer about a new contract to define my duties i was sworn and threatened with dismissal. After 2 years of working like this the employer found an excuse to fire me. I was not hired as a driver and had to daily fulfill duties that a senior was contracted to do. Please help with advice as i don't know how to move forward.
Elton - 11-Apr-17 @ 9:18 AM
I was literally in my bed one night last week when I received text message from my employer that She don't need me anymore, wish me all the best and to not go in the coffee shop anymore basically. Same time she texted to my college to let me know that she will call me when she want to pay me what she owns me. I texted her back that I'll come today in Monday to collect my money and my p45. She was not paying taxes for me too. I didn't know that I realized in my first payment and I asked her and she said that she will start from the new month cause was only week and a half from the old one and I said okay then. But she kick me out on the next day basically.
Simonaaaa0666 - 10-Apr-17 @ 11:15 AM
Renee - Your Question:
I need help I was put on probation in 2017 for missing six days in 2016 so I had the flu for a couple of days so I turned my paper in to my hr saying I had the flu and I would be out for 3 days returning to wrk on that Monday. So I came to wrk on Monday still sick so my hr sent me home but she neva told me to get a note cause she was busy talkin to me and two other employees in the hallway so I return to wrk the next day nw she asking me for a note from the dr which I didn't go cause they knew I had that flu n was sick and didn't say bring a note in nw they threaten to fire me can somebody tell me if that possible seeing she sent me hme ???

Our Response:
It sounds you were given a warning for missing 6 daysin 2016. If your employer's policy is that you need a doctor's note, then you have to comply with that.
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-17 @ 12:55 PM
I need help i was put on probation in2017 for missing six days in 2016 so i had the flu for a couple of days so I turned my paper in to my hr saying I had the flu and I would be out for 3 days returning to wrk on that Monday. So I came to wrk on Monday still sick so my hr sent me home but she neva told me to get a note cause she was busy talkin to me and two other employees in the hallway so I return to wrk the next daynw she asking me for a note from the dr which I didn't go cause they knew I had that flu n was sick and didn't say bring a note in nw they threaten to fire me can somebody tell me if that possible seeing she sent me hme ???
Renee - 5-Apr-17 @ 2:26 PM
Hi I have recently started a zero hour contract as a care worker in a caring agency I do home to home care, I have recently agreed to do a few bed shifts for them which usually ends around 10pm one of the bed shifts ends around 2-3 miles away from my home and there is no way I can get back when I spoke my concerns to the office I was told I would have to pay for a taxi home which would cost me over a £10.. Its not like I have a spare £10 losing around 3 nights on the run, if I refuse this shift can I be sacked?
tia1990 - 27-Mar-17 @ 11:49 PM
Marty - Your Question:
I told my boss when I arrived at work that my I would have to pick up my girlfriends two daughters as the arrangements she made fell through and she was out of town. As time drew close for me to leave I got a text stating that I would need to go another hour away from our city to complete some more work for him, I texted back saying I am going to pick up the girls, he said no I need you to do this work. Which I then said I can not leave these girls at school with no one able to pick them up, they are 4 and 7 and can't walk the 10 miles out to our house! He said we have to have this job completed today, and I said I am going to get the girls. He said fine ginger them but we will have a meeting about this in the morning. Went in in the morning and he fired me. Can they do that?

Our Response:
You haven't said whether you worked your full allocated hours etc or whether you simply left before you normal day would finished. We can't really comment as we don't have enough information about your circumstances or your contract.
SafeWorkers - 23-Mar-17 @ 12:57 PM
I told my boss when I arrived at work that my I would have to pick up my girlfriends two daughters as the arrangements she made fell through and she was out of town. As time drew close for me to leave I got a text stating that I would need to go another hour away from our city to complete some more work for him, I texted back saying I am going to pick up the girls, he said no I need you to do this work. Which I then said I can not leave these girls at school with no one able to pick them up, they are 4 and 7 and can't walk the 10 miles out to our house! He said we have to have this job completed today, and I said I am going to get the girls. He said fine ginger them but we will have a meeting about this in the morning. Went in in the morning and he fired me. Can they do that?
Marty - 22-Mar-17 @ 3:02 PM
Angi - Your Question:
I had signed up for this job as a part time basis and had signed a contract now I have got a better job that is more flexible and easier to do and get to. Therefore not wishing to continue the job I just signed a contract for. I want to end matters on a good note so the safest option being could they fire me for breaching a contract or would I be made to pay a fine? TBH id rather be fired lol

Our Response:
Just hand in your notice...you will need to work the relevant notice period. You can't be fired for that.
SafeWorkers - 22-Mar-17 @ 2:41 PM
I had signed up for this job as a part time basis and had signed a contract now I have got a better job that is more flexible and easier to do and get to. Therefore not wishing to continue the job I just signed a contract for. I want to end matters on a good note so the safest option being could they fire me for breaching a contract or would I be made to pay a fine? TBH id rather be fired lol
Angi - 20-Mar-17 @ 12:49 PM
Hithere - Your Question:
So I (was?) employed by a care company on a zero hour contract. Im in University and so travel home every weekend to work a sunday shift. This particular week they havent paid me correctly for the number of hours that I worked in the last couple of months. I therefore refused to work this weeks shift and my boss has told me im fired and to hand my uniform in. Is this legal?

Our Response:
If you're ona true zero hours contract, you can choose when to accept work. You can't easily be fired therefore, but your contract can be ended. If you weren't paid for the hours you worked, your "employer" was in breach of contract, so you can take further action to reclaim the money you are owed.
SafeWorkers - 27-Feb-17 @ 1:54 PM
So i (was?) employed by a care company on a zero hour contract.Im in University and so travel home every weekend to work a sunday shift. This particular week they havent paid me correctly for the number of hours that i worked in the last couple of months. I therefore refused to work this weeks shift and my boss has told me im fired and to hand my uniform in. Is this legal?
Hithere - 25-Feb-17 @ 1:04 PM
I was sacked for numerous issues which my manager will not tell what these 'issues were. One of which was taking a lit cigatette into a shop which is totally untrue. I have not been invited to a meeting to put my side of things and my manager apparently has a person who can 'back him' up. Is this unfair dismissal?
Buck - 20-Feb-17 @ 4:40 PM
2 years ago I was promoted to night manager I never had any training on some parts of my duties so I found the way to do it myself but now it turned out it was a wrong way and they dismissed me on breach of trust grounds Can I challenge their decision as I truly didn't know I was doing something wrong. No one ever came to me saying it's wrong and no one offered me any training to do it right so how was I supposed to know?
Terry - 20-Feb-17 @ 9:30 AM
i have been off work for 1 year and 6 months due to a accident at work i had a operation and still off work due to recovery i cant lift and my job role is a support worker and driver i thought i could go back to work but my doctor has said no so i dont no how long they will hold my job for can anyone give me any advice please.
dopey - 5-Feb-17 @ 1:33 PM
I work in retail and am contracted for 12 hrs per week which is on a flexible Rota bases, so no set days or times. My boss says I can't work elsewhere during my days times. I'm not in for them, even though my other employer would be happy to work around their Rotas, and not within same type of work. I took flexibly to mean I'm not on set day/times,I might be needed to stay longer than rotated. Not to mean that I'm on un paid stand by incase they have any further hours for me. Note that the word on stand by is not in my contract and no money is paid Are they allowed to refuse me the right to earn more money. They said I can only work nights elsewhere, but I have a child to care for then.
Mands - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:42 AM
Hi All, I just received a job offer with a strange notice period clause: I have to give 3 months notice after the probation period but can be dismissed with 1 week notice. I this normal ?
youkos - 23-Jan-17 @ 12:52 PM
I was suppose to open up 8.30 I phoned my manager at 9.30 as I was unwell and over slept literally hand on my heart never meant to be late or be ill I opened up and the member of staff with me told me to go home which I did I am still suffering now I am so upset with myself and for letting down my managers I only get payed minimum wage ! If I open up a shop shouldn't I get paid more anyway I need to no if I have any rights we don't get treated fairly at all ! I understand I was late and it's unacceptable but I can honestly say I never meant to be late or be ill if I new the night before I would of phoned it came out of no were I have holiday rights and can't get no holiday rights for being sick ! I have had a flu and bad migranes I have not been out of bed I'm not normally unwell but I am honest and genuine please help
Yaz - 21-Jan-17 @ 5:26 PM
Hi there, I started working for a new employer in November 2016, after coming back from Christmas break I'd just walked in the door to be told he couldn't "afford" to keep me on past January. I spent five minutes in there before I left and didn't go back after that. Within ten minutes of me leaving he changed my email password even though he said I could go in and use my work station to find a new job if I wanted. Seems all very strange to me. Co-workers in the office said he felt guilty and even though he couldn't afford me he's still paying me for the whole month? Seems a bit fishy to me. Would happily acccept any insight into this.
Chezza - 18-Jan-17 @ 11:05 PM
Can i be dismissed if I refuse to work with someone who bullies.he refuses to speak to me and won't do his job.the company wont except he is a bully.
jeff - 18-Jan-17 @ 7:04 PM
I started working for care company 15 Oct and on 20th November I became I'll and since have found got problem with my spine. I asked if I get ssp they said yes have text message as proof then on the 31st December I rang my employer to find why I'd not received sick pay I was askedwen iI'd be back I said unsure waiting for orthopaedics my employer said have to let me go no notice I'd given sick notes hospital notes and kept them informed then the manager said Isshudn't of had sick pay cause not been there 6 months and am on 0 hour contract which I've never signed a contract and the contract they wanted me to have was 32 hour. I've been trying to get a letter of dismissal and my p45 I've emailed texted and phone and heard nothing. What do I do if I dn't get these I will lose my benefits
jaycurt - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:10 PM
Im a non smoker. My boss said that i will need to like a cigarette up to residents in a smoke room. Im asthmatic. Myself and another girl have been told unless we come up with a solution we will have to carry out tbis duty. What is my right and can i be disaplined or sacked for refusing to carrying on doing this.
blueeyes - 9-Jan-17 @ 10:51 PM
I am working as a receptionist at a restaurant on a 0 hour contract. My manager said that I would be working New Years Eve about 2 weeks before that date to which I never actually agreed. I found out over Christmas that I would have plans over New Years Eve and would no longer be able to work, I gave my manager 5 days notice for this in which he would easily be able to find an agency staff to cover me. On the day of New Years Eve I contacted my manager to confirm I couldn't work, in which he told me he would sack me and revoke any service charge I'm owed if I didn't come to work. He hasn't given me any notice period of my firing and sent me horrible messages telling me I've let everyone down. My question is, what are the laws in terms of employer notice period when you're on a 0 hour contract? Can they sack you with no notice? Also is it possible for the employer to give me a bad reference and revoke my service charge because of this? I put in over 60 hours a week over the Christmas period, I don't think it's fair to be sacked for not being able to work one night.
gtm23 - 2-Jan-17 @ 5:11 PM
Hi I have started work for an agencie at a warehouse in my home town 1i have been their 3 and half to 4 weeks I want 1 day of my scheduled working time what can my workplace due due to firing me or not can they just fire me like that for having one day off or not I want to know I can't call in due to having no minutes but I will however go in on Sunday and tell them the reason why I taken this day off I want to know if I will still have my job or not thanks
Wattdog310 - 30-Dec-16 @ 3:54 PM
I'm seriously worried about being sacked, I work at McDonald's in the uk and I was caught smoking during work hours on a non approved cigarette break whilst working on another task (collecting litter outside) I have been suspended pending an investigation on Monday! Could this issue be really a sackable offence?
Daniel Summers - 30-Dec-16 @ 12:48 AM
i work in a small engineering firm .there are two buildings used for the work area .each building has a gas heater which blows out warm air .only used when factory is cold.neither of the heaters has a flue which takes the exhausted gas to out side .all the fumes go up into the roof of the building.this has been the case for a lot of years.i have often wondered what happens to the gasses when they are in the upper areas of the roof .i have heard about carbon monoxide poisoning .as far as i know ,no one has ever had a major complaint related to the expossure of such gasses ,but i have noticed there are a lot of the workers who seem to have cold symptoms quite a lot.ie running noses and coughs.is it coincidental or is it possible over a long period of time we are all getting symptoms?i remember when i first started working there ,i went through a period when i couldnt go very long with out having a cold.this went on for months. i personally have a blood test every year ,mainly because of high colestorol.i keep asking myself the question ,if there was anything wrong would it have shown up in the tests.
tiktok - 27-Dec-16 @ 7:03 PM
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