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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 13 Apr 2018 | 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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Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Offsick - Your Question:
Hiya,I work at a pub. I have been ill recently and my doctor insisted I take two weeks off work to recover. He wrote me a note which I delivered to my employers with full explanation. My employer told me that at the end of those two weeks, he would have interview me to make sure I was suitable to return to work. I am on a 0 hours contract as a full-time member of bar staff. I know that I have been valued as a worker as I have been chosen to represent the pub at several events and so am sure my performance would not be an issue.It has been almost a month now, and every attempt I have made to arrange this meeting has been ignored, and I am being omitted from shift rotas and so not earning. Can they really keep me away permanently for being sick? I wasnt ever even contagious!

Our Response:
If you're on a zero hours contract, your employer can choose when and whether to offer you work and equally, you as an employee can choose to accept or refuse it.
SafeWorkers - 16-Apr-18 @ 11:26 AM
Manager - Your Question:
Hi I am the manager off a pub I have a member off staff who I continue to get complaints about her attitude customers are staying out on her shifts I have warned her about her attitude before im going to give her a final warning she has only been with me 7 months do I need to put it in writing ?

Our Response:
Your discplinary procedure should be documented somewhere and you should follow it. The ACAS code of practice tells you how a disciplinary procedure should work.
SafeWorkers - 13-Apr-18 @ 12:16 PM
Hiya, I work at a pub. I have been ill recently and my doctor insisted I take two weeks off work to recover. He wrote me a note which I delivered to my employers with full explanation. My employer told me that at the end of those two weeks, he would have interview me to make sure I was suitable to return to work. I am on a 0 hours contract as a full-time member of bar staff. I know that I have been valued as a worker as I have been chosen to represent the pub at several events and so am sure my performance would not be an issue. It has been almost a month now, and every attempt I have made to arrange this meeting has been ignored, and I am being omitted from shift rotas and so not earning. Can they really keep me away permanently for being sick? I wasnt ever even contagious!
Offsick - 13-Apr-18 @ 10:51 AM
Hi i am the manager off a pub i have a member off staff who i continue to get complaints about her attitude customers are staying out on her shifts i have warned her about her attitude before im going to give her a final warning she has only been with me 7 months do i need to put it in writing ?
Manager - 11-Apr-18 @ 9:33 PM
Flo - Your Question:
Hello Guys, I would really s second opinion please. I worked at a bar. the manager called me like s dog and commanded me very rudely to do a task in front of a customer. I said no problem but I asked to speak to her in privately. “what” she said in front of the customer. so I said to her “can you please speak to me better than that?” “I’m your boss” she said. I continued with “I know that, can I still ask you speak to me a bit better than that” she started breathing heavily and continued to say “I’m your boss, this is how I will speak to you and if you don’t like it you know the door is” When I was leaving I asked for contact details to make a formal complaint she then said to me that my complaint will not go any further because the person I was going to complain to is her business partner. I contacted the business partner about the issue but in return they have accused me of being a liar and that I acted inappropriately. so She was right. my complaint did not go anywhere. What can I do about this? It suited them as a bar to have me a cash in hand staff. I would really appreciate any advice. I feel really crappy for standing up for myself only for them to get away with it.she is very Rude and power tripped. Thank you Flo

Our Response:
Is the bar runby a company (i.e a it is a franchise or does the couple manage it for a chain?) It could be worth contacting them? You could report them to HMRC if they are employing staff and paying them cash in hand with no visible tax deductions etc.
SafeWorkers - 11-Apr-18 @ 2:30 PM
Hello Guys, I would really s second opinion please. I worked at a bar.. the manager called me like s dog and commanded me very rudely to do a task in front of a customer. I said no problem but I asked to speak to her in privately.. “what” she said in front of the customer.. so I said to her “can you please speak to me better than that?” “I’m your boss” she said. I continued with “I know that, can I still ask you speak to me a bit better than that” she started breathing heavily and continued to say “I’m your boss, this is how I will speak to you and if you don’t like it you know the door is” When I was leaving I asked for contact details to make a formal complaint she then said to me that my complaint will not go any further because the person I was going to complain to is her business partner. I contacted the business partner about the issue but in return they have accused me of being a liar and that I acted inappropriately.. so She was right.. my complaint did not go anywhere. What can I do about this? It suited them as a bar to have me a cash in hand staff. I would really appreciate any advice.. I feel really crappy for standing up for myself only for them to get away with it.she is very Rude and power tripped. Thank you Flo
Flo - 11-Apr-18 @ 7:09 AM
None - Your Question:
I worked as head of maintenance when I was hired the owner was very aware of my disability (epilepsy)and had to problem with days I might miss due to seizures,etc, then hotel sold to new owner he also was aware of my situation in fact when previous manager left the owner asked if I would stay, then new manager was hired and asked me to sign contract that I would work 80hrs or dismissal I stated I could not sign that due to my epilepsy which he was aware of also as were all employees, he called the owner manager said did not recall conservation, I never had any complaints on my work and was already putting in 79hrs what are my rights I had to fight for unemployment and that is over no income! I need to know my rights.

Our Response:
This sounds highly unethical. Talk to ACAS for some advice . There is also some more guidance in our article here
SafeWorkers - 10-Apr-18 @ 12:57 PM
I worked as head of maintenance when i was hired the owner was very aware of my disability (epilepsy)and had to problem with days i might miss due to seizures,etc, then hotel sold to new owner he also was aware of my situation in fact when previous manager left the owner asked if i would stay, then new manager was hired and asked me to sign contract that i would work 80hrs or dismissal i stated i could not sign that due to my epilepsy which he was aware of also as were all employees, he called the owner manager said did not recall conservation, i never had any complaints on my work and was already putting in 79hrs what are my rights i had to fight for unemployment and that is over no income! I need to know my rights.
None - 9-Apr-18 @ 6:40 PM
mamie - Your Question:
Hi, I was sacked by the AA because I had difficulty getting into work while on probation due to all the snow we had, while the news was telling people not to go out driving the AA were insisting I put my safety at risk and drive the 20 mile round journey (im only just passed my driving test so didnt feel safe driving in those conditions) can they do this? desperately need advise. thanks. mary.

Our Response:
We really can't give an answer to an individual question like this as we don't have all the facts, such as whether other staff members were able to drive, how much snow was in your area etc.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 12:20 PM
Alves - Your Question:
Hi.I was working for the same company in care nearly 2 years. They had a problem whilst I was in holidays and myself and my boss found out I forgot to do a competency assessment medication to one of the staff. To be fair she never asked for it specific until yesterday.I ended up being fired because she "doesn't trust me to do the job and to be her right hand ".I just would like to know if it was a fair dismissal. Thank you very much

Our Response:
We can't give opinions on individual cases as we don't have both parties' versions of events. You should note that you cannot usually claim unfair dismissal until you have been working for your employer for at least two years.
SafeWorkers - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:51 AM
Hi, my fellow coworker and I recently agreed to help work at the opening of a new restaurant only as help. We finished the agreed work time( 5 days split between the two of us) however are now being told that one of us will have to stay for another week, which we both do not want to do, considering the 2hr+ train ride and tight margin between the last train down to where we live and the time we finished during the perviously said help week. We are both under contract to work 44-45 hours every week, split into 5 days, however upper management wants one of us to work the 7day week by ourselves. We are both worried that we will be fired if we refuse, is there any reason to be? Thanks.
J.h. - 8-Apr-18 @ 4:02 PM
hi, i was sacked by the AA because i had difficulty getting into work while on probation due to all the snow we had, while the news was telling people not to go out driving the AA were insisting i put my safety at risk and drive the 20 mile round journey (im only just passed my driving test so didnt feel safe driving in those conditions) can they do this? desperately need advise. thanks. mary.
mamie - 7-Apr-18 @ 12:20 PM
Hi. I was working for the same company in care nearly 2 years.They had a problem whilst I was in holidays and myself and my boss found out I forgot to do a competency assessment medication to one of the staff. To be fair she never asked for it specific untilyesterday. I ended up being fired because she "doesn't trust me to do the job and to be her right hand ". I just would like to know if it was a fair dismissal. Thank you very much
Alves - 7-Apr-18 @ 6:39 AM
Herb - Your Question:
I work for a delivery company. I made a delivery on and stacked boxes as usual to scan. The manager on duty knocked my boxes over as she attempted to scan. I informed her that they need to be put back because I needed to scan them as well. She did so, we had no problem even though she was a little upset. Nothing wrong on my behalf.I further continued to bring in totes( not boxes). When I came in I asked what number she had after scanning her boxes. She said 37. I said to her I got 38, and that she missed 1.As I continued to work on the totes, she said to me, you know, what's your name? I said Lee, she said to me that you might not want to come back here.She proceeded to call my employer on me after I left to complain on me for no reason.I know because after I was done, I also called my supervisor to let him know what had happened. Later, my job suspended me for this action. What do I do?

Our Response:
Check your employer's appeals process. If you have worked for the company for more than two years, you are able to make an application for unfair dismissal.
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:33 PM
Flick - Your Question:
Hi, I’m on a fixed term contract with a company and in the three months I have worked there I have had various health issues and have only managed to work 6 days. I have doctors certification for all of the time I have been off and my company are paying me ssp. I am unable to be 100% sure I will return. Are they able to fire me? My contract has some more months left.

Our Response:
Yes if you you're unable to fulfil the contract or the employer doesn't feel that you can perform the job effectively, they can choose to dismiss you as long as they follow the correct procedures.
SafeWorkers - 6-Apr-18 @ 12:20 PM
I work for a delivery company. I made a delivery on and stacked boxes as usual to scan . The manager on duty knocked my boxes over as she attempted to scan. I informed her that they need to be put back because I needed to scan them as well. She did so, we had no problem even though she was a little upset. Nothing wrong on my behalf. I further continued to bring in totes( not boxes). When I came in I asked what number she had after scanning her boxes. She said 37. I said to her I got 38, and that she missed 1. As I continued to work on the totes, she said to me, you know, what's your name? I said Lee, she said to me that you might not want to come back here. She proceeded to call my employer on me after I left to complain on me for no reason. I know because after I was done, I also called my supervisor to let him know what had happened. Later, my job suspended me for this action. What do I do?
Herb - 5-Apr-18 @ 5:49 PM
Hi, I’m on a fixed term contract with a company and in the three months I have worked there I have had various health issues and have only managed to work 6 days. I have doctors certification for all of the time i have been off and my company are paying me ssp. I am unable to be 100% sure I will return. Are they able to fire me?. My contract has some more months left.
Flick - 5-Apr-18 @ 4:15 PM
Tel - Your Question:
My son is on zero hours contract. He has been working at the same place for 18 months. He was late for work one day due to overstepping. On his way yo work he spoke on the phone to his manager who told him not to bother coming in. He told her he was just 10 minutes away and again apologised. She then again said don't come in go home. He has now been fired for not turning up to work. He has had no disaplinary he was told he's sacked. Is this acceptable

Our Response:
Your son will need to question whether he is on a genuine zero hours contract. After 18 months and assuming he's worked regular shifts with no breaks in the contract, then it's likely he is a regular employee. If he is genuinely on a zero hours contract, he doesn't have the same rights and his employee can simply choose not to give him any more work. Please see our guide here, for more information.
SafeWorkers - 4-Apr-18 @ 11:34 AM
My son is on zero hours contract. He has been working at the same place for 18 months. He was late for work one day due to overstepping. On his way yo work he spoke on the phone to his manager who told him not to bother coming in. He told her he was just 10 minutes away and again apologised. She then again said don't come in go home. He has now been fired for not turning up to work. He has had no disaplinary he was told he's sacked. Is this acceptable
Tel - 3-Apr-18 @ 8:08 AM
My father is working in biscuit factory he very good worker.not have any leave on him record only holidays that factory give him two weeks ago he’s in bad condition high fever high cough that’s why he cannot go at him work and Doctor gives bad rest and also sick note (SSP) we give this note to manger but he cannot accept sick not and do misbehave with my father “he said that we are lying with him.but my father is not in good condition please tell me what we do.
Abid - 29-Mar-18 @ 1:13 PM
I was given suspended from my work today due to missold a serivce as i have been with the same company for over 3 years. They decided to hold a meeting with the manager and investgation officer and decided to suspend me with full pay. I would like to know if my company or my manager should of informed me on this meeting as i was never informed. The minutes were taken off the meeting and no paperwork was given to me. I was told there would be a disciplinary meeting within a weeks time. If the company decide to terminate my emloyment can they do it on the day of disciplinary or does tge company need to give me notice. THANKS in advance.
Hanna - 22-Mar-18 @ 5:51 AM
Hi my daughter (17) has worked in a takeaway for over 2 years and because she said she could only work sat this week (schoolwork deadlines) she has been fired by telephone what can she do about this thanks
Rab - 21-Mar-18 @ 7:32 PM
Pigsterboii95- Your Question:
We are suppose to have our rota 2 weeks in advance but the rota for next week was only put up last night and I wasn’t in so I’ve only just seen it.The rota is Sunday-Saturday and I’m down to work Sunday, but I have plans now made before I seen the rota.If I refuse to work the Sunday can I be disaplined?

Our Response:
Please see our article which addresses is issues here
SafeWorkers - 19-Mar-18 @ 11:21 AM
My daughter started her first job and was told she was doing well and they would move her on to more once she had been trained, after 7 days of working they told her they couldn't afford to keep her or train her, no written contract but information via email about start date and hourly rate and only got paid for the 7 days is this legal
Jo - 19-Mar-18 @ 9:02 AM
Iv got to go to a meeting which my employers have said may lead to discerplinery action. I rang in sick on Monday with a stomach bug went back Wednesday as I work in catering and have to be clear from vomiting anything like that for at least 24hours. iv since received a letter of a meeting with management and HR as I was seen out in a pub the night before. I don't work sunday . what can I do?
julie - 19-Mar-18 @ 12:07 AM
Rose continuation ..... did receive the payments as agreed but when asked about a response to his email regarding the threat of violence he was told that as he had resigned they would not be doing anything about it.Even though he brought this up before his resignation. He left the school and came home and is looking to move forward to start his new job. I feel that he has been intimidated, bullied and harassed.His line manager, HR officer and bursar are all "friends" and based on this event and events relating to other staff it is clear i's about who you know not what you know.Line managers like this should not be untouchable.I understand that something similar has happened before but that could be hearsay but I don't think so.
Rose - 17-Mar-18 @ 1:22 PM
My son worked for a private secondary school. His line manger was always criticizing his work.After 2 months my son decided to look for a new job and his employer knew this as he had to tell them when he needed time off for an interview and they even wrote a reference. Then out of the blue, on Monday morning this week, the HR administrator said that if he handed in his notice that same day they would pay him to the end of the month, along with holiday owed and he could leave the same day. My son didn't know what to do as he had not secured a new job and did not want to hand in his notice until such time as he had a definite job to go to. I told him to ask for this in writing but they refused and said they would only do this AFTER he had handed in his notice. This was very stressful for him as he is young and never experienced this before. The HR officer, bursar and his manager were all aware of his decision not to hand in his notice.His line manager at one point told him that two days later they would have a meeting and he would sack him.No reason given.They spoke again later and his line manger who pressed him to hand in his notice that day.My son asked his line manger why he would be sacked 2 days later. The manager was seriously verbally aggressive and used the "F" word to my son and said that would not be relevant if he hands his notice in.Then he told my son that he was determined that he would be violent towards him.He also made a suggestion that my son was going to try to get compensation from the school.My son left his office and phoned me.I told my son to leave the building but to inform the HR department.No one was there so he told the PA of a deputy head that he was feeling unwell and stressed and how he was threatened.He went to his car then emailed the HR department that he was leaving for the day.He then left the premises. That afternoon the bursar emailed him and said how he left without informing his line manger, contract to his contract of employment and that they were to meet the next day at 9am.At this stage I would like to point out that he had been employed for over2 months and did not have a written contract of employment nor a job description.The next day he was still too stressed and shaken to go into work so I told him to stay home.I called into his work to tell them he would not be in but his line manager was off and the bursar was apparently in a meeting when she was told I was calling.I left a message that he had food poisoning. My son had to email in that he was not well. Luckily he received confirmation of the offer of a new job which he accepted. Late that evening he wrote his resignation giving them 3 weeks notice and emailed it to the bursar. When he went into work the next day he found his computer access had been removed and a meeting was scheduled with the bursar.They met and she told him they would pay him to the end of the month with his holiday allowance.He
Rose - 17-Mar-18 @ 1:06 PM
We are suppose to have our rota 2 weeks in advance but the rota for next week was only put up last night and I wasn’t in so I’ve only just seen it. The rota is Sunday-Saturday and I’m down to work Sunday, but I have plans now made before I seen the rota. If I refuse to work the Sunday can I be disaplined?
Pigsterboii95 - 16-Mar-18 @ 10:50 AM
Hi, I've been sacked today which has really upset me.Never in my career have I ever been sacked, in fact the opposite.I started to work with a new CEO after they gave the last CEO a sideways move.She says I have been sacked for discussing sensitive issues with managers, which I haven't.This has arisen because I highlighted some issues to her boss.No procedure has taken place and we have not met to discuss.She just sacked me.
Not my day - 13-Mar-18 @ 4:14 PM
@Mooster. Now the law has changed to make it pretty much compulsory to stay on at school, it would be useful to adapt employment law accordingly.6th formers who want to earn extra money around their studies seem to be pretty poorly treated by employers (especially in the retail sector). The same applies to Uni' students as well I suppose.
Ducking Around - 13-Mar-18 @ 1:53 PM
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