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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 7 Oct 2019 | 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 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
My manager was leaving the restaurant I work at , before he left he told all staff to stay and have a drink , which we did , a new manager has started work there now , and was informed of what happened , we have all been suspended , I feel it was a set up as both managers are friends , it seems very unfair that the manager leaving gave us permission to do this and now we are under investigation .
Moi - 8-Apr-19 @ 5:38 PM
I work in warehouse distributing to one of the main supermarket. I paid to gain my LGV driving license. My company gave me chance to transport department where I could earn more money. The programme was for colleagues that had gain this licenses to help them gain experience. I started with a driver trainer for sometime. The first day on my own I made a mistake at the store that I hit a sign post. Came back followed the company procedure. Later I was on to another delivery. Came back with no issues. Next on my shift I was told you are not going out but with a driver. I was with this driver for awhile.l later my company told me I should go back to the warehouse no work job for me. What can I do
Baptist - 6-Apr-19 @ 5:40 PM
Hi my boss many yrs ago threatened me that if I didn't do double the wrk then he would half my hrs. I didn't agree to it as its physically impossible but said I would do my best. He's now trying again to get rid of me on same grounds. He's not treating other staff the same as he is me!What are my rights? I've been employed there 21yrs the last 13yrs of that at 16hrs a wk. Help please
Thistle - 25-Mar-19 @ 5:19 PM
I have been off for a month all over January I have rang my manager for my shifts and she just keeps saying that she has done the rota and she will ring me to tell me my next shifts but she doesn’t we are now in February and I still haven’t heard anything what shall I do
Kirsty - 4-Feb-19 @ 2:34 PM
My employer has introduced a none smoking policy during working hours, i worked my shift and clocked off and was stood off site at the side of a public highway smoking a cigarette i went back to collect my car where a member of management confronted me saying i face a disciplinary for gross misconduct
Bigbie - 11-Oct-18 @ 5:23 PM
I have been working for the same company in admin for 7 yrs, have been taken in the office and told I am not fast enough and if i don't change they will have to let me go because i'm not capable of doing the job, can the do this?
lacy - 11-Sep-18 @ 1:40 PM
Two weeks ago while I was on holiday my boss rings me on the last day on a Friday afternoon and asked if I could work the following week 09:00-17:00 as he was going on holiday. Of which I said yes. But on the week starting I decided to work my normal core hours of 10:00-18:00. I didn’t change this through out. Now I have been given a letter stating disciplinary action / hearing will be brought agasnt me on the 13th September stating that after this investigation I could be dismissed from my job in refusal to compliy to cover my dept in line with buisness needs after agreeing to do so and a non-acceptable attitude to my working hours.
D - 6-Sep-18 @ 7:38 PM
Hi today my boss send me on Turners for Lorry Driver I fill paperwork all dan after 20 min come to me one men from traffic office tell me I can use you beacause you was working with as
Ridvas - 2-Sep-18 @ 9:16 AM
I work in a retail shop and just recently I have been having an affair with my assistant manager and we have been lets say but of touching has been going on, I got pulled in the office and I got told by my area manager that I must move shop because of it, can I get sacked if I refuse?
Ryanwrench - 16-Aug-18 @ 9:36 PM
Hi I work in a call centre and they have a quality sheet to monitor calls,we do not recieve a bonus if we pass quality but we do get threatened with the sack if we fail quality.It is monitored on a 6 weekly cycle and the calls are picked randomly and on the quality sheet are what they call critical fails.Now I do understand the reason for quality but they expect 100%on every call. One of the critical fails is not saying sorry to a customer when they call in,I do appreciate that it is courtesy to apologies which I try to do on every call and most customers reply you don't have to appologise as these things happen. There are other critical fails on the sheet such as DPA which I believe is far more important but the reason I have picked appologise is that a fellow colleague has been threatened with the sack and infact has been referred to the HR team to be issued with a warning which could eventually lead to dismisal. I believeve that is tantamount to bullying and somewhat unreasonable behaviour being displayed by the quality team.I have worked for call centres for many years who also had quality obviously but it was worked out as a percentage much like an exam and if you went below that percentage you would receive extra training if you continued to fail it would lead to dismisal but you were not executed to acheive 100%for every cycle which was on a quarterly based and rather than being threatened with failure you recieved a bonus each qurter if you achived it.Sure to God it is a bit over the top to sack someone for not saying sorry and I don't mean he failed to say it on every call but a couple of occasions out of approximately 1800 calls over a six week period.
Addy - 29-Jul-18 @ 9:50 PM
My partner has been threatened with possibly being let go due to his bosses claiming he's on his final warning when in fact he's only on his first written warning. Because my partners bosses arent listening to him regarding this fact I took it along myself to email his head office. Long story short I told them if they fired him we'll have them done for unfair dismissal. Have i made things worse? Can threatening unfair dismissal get someone fired?
Sasha - 12-Jul-18 @ 8:00 PM
wondering is someone could help me out in my old job if you did something that they needed to give you a warning for they had to give you it before you clocked on for your next shift ... they said it was because if you had clocked on and worked more than a hour they were putting the means of the dismiss business above what you have done wrong if this a rule by law or is it just that company's rules
lee - 12-Jul-18 @ 2:37 AM
Hi My husband had an incident this morning and we are wondering about his rights He has been at a company for a year, this morning after a conversation with another staff member - the transport manager got involved, basically my husband was sent home, the manager kept saying to him "you are done" as my husband went to walk off he called him back and said where are you going you are done, go home.My husband is now at home and wondering if he doesn't hear from them does he go into work tomorrow, or does he wait - any advice gratefully received
Personalassis - 4-Jul-18 @ 12:59 PM
I do not want to work Saturday I work Monday through Friday about 50 hours a week I'm out of town all week and a hotel and I go home Friday after work my boss is telling me if I don't want to work Saturday I can just stay home can he legally do that I have been at this company a little over a year I just want to know if he can force me to work Saturday if I already got about 50 hours come Friday
Hook - 28-Jun-18 @ 9:48 PM
Hi my partner had 2 days of work because he was unwell and couldn't ring because we had no credit. He boss gave him he's first warning can he do that?
Channy - 19-Jun-18 @ 7:02 AM
Can a GM of the company ask you to put in your to weeks at a current job and then not sure you?
Char - 6-Jun-18 @ 2:05 AM
Hi I work for 20 hours A week and I have a untreatable condition. Work want a meeting as I may not be able to work full time in the future what do I do? Can work fire me?
Ang - 3-Jun-18 @ 3:25 PM
So I had an induction at work from 7 am till 8 am then got told to start my shift straight away, bare in mind I am 16 years old and they photo copied both my NI number and Passport which does show that I am 16 years old. I got called into the office and fired straight away for not being 18 as It was a warehouse job. Can they do that and fire me on my first day for my age? Full well knowing that I am 16. I worked for about 4 hour in total that day.
Kris - 2-Jun-18 @ 5:26 PM
Hi I have worriking for the company for over 20 years just made a mistake at work and I was called into the office then next day I was sad and thinking about my mistake and it happened again the metal over spilled again now I been suspended till monday and not sure what will happen now never happened before can I be sacked for that fault
Dave - 1-Jun-18 @ 1:05 PM
Dave - Your Question:
Hi, I recently got fired as of this morning and I believe it to be unfair dismissal. I started on the 17th May and it has been 2 weeks to the day. I was called into the office upon starting my shift and got told I was not being kept on. I’m unsure if this is fair due to still being in the probation period (which was 3 months). The reason I was let go is because of my back and hip problems, I’m 22 and have been to the doctor’s and hospital to try and get my problems sorted but they did not want to continue as treatment had a high risk of causing permenant damage. My job was factory work which involves machinery and packing but I was occasionally asked to work in the warehouse unloading containers. I could manage putting the contents of the containers onto pallets but when I was in the container itself, I found that I could not reach for the contents below waist height as it caused my back to seize up and cause me severe pain. This was the only aspect of my job that I could not manage. Any help would be greatly appreciated, thankyou.

Our Response:
You can only claim unfair dismissal if you have worked for your employer for two years or more. If your employer knows you are unable to do all aspects of your job at this stage it's probably reasonable that they can dismiss you unless you are being asked to do something wildly different from your job description.
SafeWorkers - 1-Jun-18 @ 12:59 PM
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