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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 26 Sep 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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[Add a Comment]
Hi I'm an assistant manager of a store and I was running the day I quickly nipped out to grab something was literally 2mins can I be sacked for it? I wasn't meant to leave the store atall today, now I'm really worried
Mia - 26-Sep-17 @ 7:39 PM
Steve- Your Question:
My employer (the local Council run leisure centre) is demanding, due to lack of staff and no intention of hiring anymore, that we take up several extra duties (mainly cleaning duties which are not part of our regular duties). He has even gone so far as to threaten to sack members of staff if they do not agree to do extra training to allow us to perform these additional duties.Although he has not threatened me personally. yet I was wondering if this is deemed as bullying at work?

Our Response:
If your employer is making you work more than your contracted hours on a regular basis, they are in breach of contract. Please see our guide here for more information.
SafeWorkers - 26-Sep-17 @ 3:22 PM
My employer (the local Council run leisure centre) is demanding, due to lack of staff and no intention of hiring anymore, that we take up several extra duties (mainly cleaning duties which are not part of our regular duties). He has even gone so far as to threaten to sack members of staff if they do not agree to do extra training to allow us to perform these additional duties. Although he has not threatened me personally .... yet I was wondering if this is deemed as bullying at work?
Steve - 25-Sep-17 @ 10:56 AM
I Have worked for a company for 5years work really hard 24 hrs a weekso therefore never use the canteen for lunches as don't get one my manager told us today in a staff meeting that the canteen is filthy and the dish washer is not getting used so wants us all to be on a rota to go in and tidy up use the dish washer etc I said I refuse to do that as I do not use the canteen and we are all adults ,3 other colleagues also part time do not use the canteen and said they would not also clean so the manager threatened us with gross misconduct and that it is in our contract ,one member was told that it was in handbook and is she still refuses as its gross misconduct so she agreed to tidy up ,I was taken up and asked was I refusing which I said yes as been here 5 years and I'm not cleaning up after adults they have tv,sofas,microwave ,dish washer and all the tea coffee sugar they want me they the. Want me to go up there and clean up after them ,the manager said this will go down the lines of gross misconduct duct and will be followed up ,how do I stand with this ?am I in the wrong ?
Sammy30 - 13-Sep-17 @ 4:49 PM
Hello I've worked for care company for 17 months in 2005 I had a conviction I told my manager this & went to explain how it came about she said I don't need to know as it's spent & so old I'm giving you the job - in July this year I had a letter off dbs saying they were considereing mind barring me I took the letter to work showed my nanager she rung dbs & they assured her it was standard & after she explains everything they seem to think I won't be barred - now I have had letter to go & see the boss how owns the home to explain my conviction on my dbs & if I don't give satisfactory reasons I will be sacked can they do this ?? Surly they should have suspended me with pay when I took the letter in in July if they had any concerns not leave it till now September
Titch - 10-Sep-17 @ 4:13 PM
I haved worked for my employer for just under a year now. I passed my 13 week probationary period and so far been doing my best at my role. Lately however i have noticed a change in what i would call the workload. I was hired on a 24 hour contract , three days a week doing night shifts shelf stacking between 10pm and 7am. My contract was signed by two managers and nothing was mentioned about any work targets and case rates. A week or so ago my store manager approached me and said i must work faster as morning staff are complaining as well as the need to hit this new case rate. (60/hour). I find this unreasonable especially when i work within the alcohol section. Nothing about case rate targets or having to work faster where mentioned to me during my induction or throught my probabtionary period. I even asked during my induction and was told that it used to exist however was abolished and no longer existed. I feel tricked and quite stressed about all this. What could i do in this position? Thanks
r.a.c - 31-Aug-17 @ 12:27 AM
my husbands firm has just told one of his colleges they are sacking him and told him he can stay for a month but must get another job. the reason they gave him was that he's moaning about another college to loudly he's been there about 4 months. can they do this?
shell - 24-Aug-17 @ 1:35 PM
I have worked for this company for 3 years I'm contracted to do 25 hours per week and I have offered a couple of hours at weekends to help (either a Saturday or Sunday) which I used to get to go early on a Friday. In my contract it has stated occasional weekend. Now I get told what weekend day I'm doing and sometimes both days which I have been told I'll get back in toil. I was informed that I should not make plans at weekends in case they wan me to work. What can I do
Jay - 22-Aug-17 @ 10:27 PM
Lcb - Your Question:
I worked for a company from November 2016 to end of July 2017. After two days off with my 1year old son while he was being treated for dehydration, I returned to work for my manager to call me into the conference room and tell me I I as sacked. I have never received a written or verbal warning nor had I had any disciplinary action against me. I kept in regular contact the two days I was off and told the every detail of what was happening. It has now come to payday and they haven't paid me a penny. What action can I take for this to be resolved?

Our Response:
Do you mean they haven't paid you for the work you've done? Or they haven't paid you for the two days you took off? If they haven't paid you for the work you've done, then you should contact ACAS with a view to taking further action to recover it. If you are concerned that they haven't paid you for the two days off, then check they company's policy before taking action...an employer is not necessarily obliged to pay for emergency childcare days.
SafeWorkers - 21-Aug-17 @ 10:41 AM
Beepee- Your Question:
My partner has been sacked after 8 months with a company. He received 2 hrs warning of the disciplinary meeting and was sacked later that day. Their "reason" was that he was not doing his job well enough, even though little training was provided. There was no standard process and no regular reviews of performance. Does he have a case for wrongful dismissal? Seems wrong that he's given very little training, given no warning of disciplinary meeting and then sacked 6 hrs later. Thanks.

Our Response:
Not really - the unfair dismissal rule only applies to employees who've worked with the same employer for two years or more. Wrongful dismissal is usuallly applicable only in cases of breach of contract. If your partner's contract states that he should have reviews at specified intervals or gives details of specific training provided, then maybe a breach of contract has taken place, but it's unlikely as this is not the kind of information contained in a contract.
SafeWorkers - 18-Aug-17 @ 11:15 AM
I worked for a company from November 2016 to end of July 2017. After two days off with my 1year old son while he was being treated for dehydration, I returned to work for my manager to call me into the conference room and tell me I i as sacked. I have never received a written or verbal warning nor had I had any disciplinary action against me. I kept in regular contact the two days I was off and told the every detail of what was happening. It has now come to payday and they haven't paid me a penny. What action can I take for this to be resolved?
Lcb - 17-Aug-17 @ 6:11 AM
My partner has been sacked after 8 months with a company. He received 2 hrs warning of the disciplinary meeting and was sacked later that day. Their "reason" was that he was not doing his job well enough, even though little training was provided. There was no standard process and no regular reviews of performance. Does he have a case for wrongful dismissal? Seems wrong that he's given very little training, given no warning of disciplinary meeting and then sacked 6 hrs later. Thanks.
Beepee - 16-Aug-17 @ 6:43 PM
Libby - Your Question:
Hi I have worked for the same care home for 5 years now. Around 4 months ago I was having a hard time and I had applied for college and another job on a knee jerk reaction. I had a meeting with my manager after this and told her I was going through with the college but not the new job and asked if I could be kept on as bank staff while I studied she said that was fine now I start college on the 28th of this month and I am not on the new Rota with no verbal or written morning been given can they fire me without telling me xoxo

Our Response:
It sounds as the though your meeting was accepted as your resignation...ask your employer if you can apply to be considered for a bank staff position
SafeWorkers - 16-Aug-17 @ 2:18 PM
Hi I have worked for the same care home for 5 years now. Around 4 months ago I was having a hard time and I had applied for college and another job on a knee jerk reaction. I had a meeting with my manager after this and told her I was going through with the college but not the new job and asked if I could be kept on as bank staff while I studied she said that was fine now I start college on the 28th of this month and I am not on the new Rota with no verbal or written morning been given can they fire me without telling me xoxo
Libby - 15-Aug-17 @ 12:19 AM
My husband has worked for a retail company for 17 years as Assistant Manager.He runs the place and is brilliant at it working far more hours than necessary putting everything into his job.Hisshop has been the most profitable even though it is not the biggest store.The Manager even asks for advice all the time.A new Company have bought the stores.They have made 15 staff redundant and have been heard to say they want staff under 35 years of age.My husband is 61 and they are trying to force him out.Telling him he is not capable of being Manager.This week a member of staff was sacked due to a drinking problem.My husband sorted it and the staff member has worked there for over 10 years.She is 55.She has recently separated and been depressed so started drinking.Now my husband has been suspended and accused of not dealing with the problem properly.He thinks they will be sacking him next week.He has told me he should have reported it but was trying the help the employee and does not want to fight back if it comes to losing his job.What can I do to help him?
Lucky - 12-Aug-17 @ 3:42 PM
Ps4gal - Your Question:
I'm an apprentice and I'm contracted Monday to Friday and 40hrs maximum. I have now been asked to do more hours and do Saturdays starting at 4am which I couldn't possibly do. They have said they will fire me for gross misconduct can they do this?

Our Response:
If your contract says your hours are a maximum of 40 per week Monday to Friday, you can't really be asked to do more without your consent. Even though you are in an apprenticeship if you have a contract, this is legally binding. See our guide here for more information
SafeWorkers - 9-Aug-17 @ 2:48 PM
I'm an apprentice and I'm contracted Monday to Friday and 40hrs maximum. I have now been asked to do more hours and do Saturdays starting at 4am which I couldn't possibly do. They have said they will fire me for gross misconduct can they do this?
Ps4gal - 8-Aug-17 @ 9:29 PM
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
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