Home > > Can my Employer Fire Me?

Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 25 Sep 2020 | comments*Discuss
Misconduct Gross Misconduct Dismissal

If your employer threatens to fire you, it can be a very worrying time. Often this is can be just a threat with no legal basis. However there are situations in which you can be immediately dismissed (for gross misconduct). Below we will consider the situations in which you can or cannot be dismissed.

Working Time Directive Rights

The Working Time Directive gives workers a number of rights. These include:
  • Working a maximum of 8 hours out of every 24 hours for night workers
  • Having 1 day off in every 7 days
  • Having 11 hours off in every 24 hours
  • Having a short in-work break every 6 hours
  • Having 4 weeks paid leave every year

(Note that these are an average, taken across a period of time.)

"I said to my manager that I wanted to take a break after 8 hours of working. He told me that if I do, I might as well go home and not come back. Can he do that?"

Any worker over 18 years old may opt out of the Working Time Directive. However if you do not choose to do so, you cannot legally be fired for your refusal. Equally, if have opted out and choose to opt back in, you are entitled to do so (giving notice to your employer). Your decision to opt back into the Working Time Directive is also not a reason to lawfully fire you.

Changes to working hours

"When I arrived at work last week, my boss told me that he needed me to stay 4 hours later. I said that I couldn't due to child care issues. He shouted that I was fired and walked off. I've not heard from him since. Can I be fired like that?"

If your employment contract does not give you fixed days and hours, your employer can request that you work at different times, and even change a previous rota. You however, have to be given reasonable notice of the change. If you are not given reasonable notice (which will vary on the nature of the change but is usually a minimum of 24 hours), you can refuse to change your working hours. This is not a reason to legally fire you.

Note that if you have reasonable notice of the change, and the new hours comply with your employment contract, you cannot refuse to work when asked. If you have worked for your employer for over 26 weeks and are the full time carer of a child under 17 years old or a dependent adult, you can ask for flexible working (for example to not work weekday evenings). Your employer does not have to agree to this. If they do not agree and you still refuse to work the hours or days required, this will likely be a disciplinary issue. It is unlikely that this is such gross misconduct that you will be fired immediately, but a number of disciplinary issues could lawfully lead to you losing your job.

Zero hour contracts

If your employer stops giving you any working hours (and so you do not receive any income), it may feel like they have fired you. However if you have a zero hours contract, they are not obliged to give you any hours. You have therefore not technically been fired, as you are still in their employment, but working zero hours.

If this arrangement does not work for you (for example if you need the income and so do need a certain number of hours), speak to your employer. Do they think they will realistically be able to give you the hours that you need? If not, you may wish to consider seeking employment elsewhere.

Probation period

"I was hired in a company with 3 months probation but after six weeks... they told me that I don't fit the job. Is it fair?"

Your employer can legally "let you go" without giving a reason at any time during your probation period (as long as this is not for a discriminatory reason). They do however still need to give you the required notice period (usually one week). Our article on probationary periods gives further information about this


If your employer suddenly has a drop in income or need for staff, and so cannot pay or does not need as many employees, they may consider redundancies. (More information on redundancies here).

"I am contracted to work 36 hours a week. My company has no clients in so work has ceased. Should by law they still have to pay me?"

There is a formal redundancy process that must be followed, including consultation with the person whose job is at risk; your employer can't legally just stop paying you or tell you not to come into work anymore.

Gross misconduct

Gross misconduct is conduct so serious that it warrants immediate dismissal.

What is gross misconduct really depends upon the job. For example two employers could require their employees to sweep up litter on an outside area of the premises and ban employees from smoking during this task. However the seriousness of the breach would be different for someone working at a hotel, where smoking might just look unprofessional, compared to at a petrol station where smoking is dangerous.

Even if you commit gross misconduct, you cannot be fired on the spot; there is a process that must be followed.

  1. Your employer can suspend you whilst they investigate the alleged incident. You will however still be paid whilst suspended
  2. There will be a meeting at which you will be given an opportunity to put forward your case. You must be given reasonable notice of the meeting to allow you to consider the points you wish to make.
  3. After this meeting, your employer must give you reasons in writing for your dismissal
  4. You have the right to appeal the decision. If you appeal, your employer must invite you to another meeting. You must again be given advance notice of this meeting and will be given the opportunity to be accompanied by a friend, union representative or colleague (depending upon your employer's procedure for disciplinary meetings)
  5. Following an appeal meeting, your employer must promptly inform you of their final decision in writing

There is therefore no lawful way to just fire someone "on the spot".

If you want to find out more about specific issues try typing your query into the search box above to find the relevant feature. You can also post any comments you have below.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
[Add a Comment]
Would 2 nhs employee get sack for accidentally drop a patient while hoisting? The patient is fine.
F - 25-Sep-20 @ 2:37 PM
I work in an Education Setting (further education) and although I am an office worker and been able to work from home, my employer decided that despite the government's recommendations, everyone should continue working in the office. I'm extremely upset with this and would like to know if they can fire me if I refuse to go to the office and continue working from home. Many Thanks.
EN - 24-Sep-20 @ 11:43 AM
I have just been dismissed for gross misconduct. I used my mobile phone while sitting on my forklift,switched off, keys out and not sitting in driver position. The company has policies about mobile phone use.,butin my department it was common practice to use them. Even my manager called me
Fallingdown - 19-Sep-20 @ 10:55 AM
A friend who is deputy manager at an hotel has been told she will be sacked today for asking a member of staff who is on sick to come in because they are so short staffed ,is this gross misconduct or a serious misdemeanor
Oldie - 16-Sep-20 @ 1:00 PM
A friend of mine was working as a sales assistant in retail and got promoted to supervisor earlier this year a new manger started in march who is bossy, a bully, lazy incapable of her job on her first shift she threw something at my friend she has decided enough is enough and has written a letter requesting her position be dropped back down to sales she has been told it's be a supervisor or leave what can she do?
Dusty - 6-Sep-20 @ 1:00 PM
My colleague was fired after he finished his job. The supervisor found him sitting and sleeping. Is it right? Fire someone without chance? Whete he should go to defend hiself?
Fab - 1-Sep-20 @ 8:44 PM
The head chef keeps moaning at me because and thinks I do not do my job properly I can.t go to the management what should I do walk away from the job or get another job eny advise please
Can - 31-Aug-20 @ 3:53 PM
I work at warehouse where I was driving a reachtruck then o this other dayI mistakenly dropped a full pallet then I got fired fir that mistake .
Mapunya Chris - 25-Aug-20 @ 2:59 PM
I started a job 3 months ago as a coordinator at a charity. My HR called me demanding me to come in to work within 3 hours. I asked why I was not given a day’s notice and all she said was that regardless she needed me to come in. I felt violated and undermined- like I had no choice but to accept. Is this right for her to do this?
Takwane - 25-Aug-20 @ 8:00 AM
I workning in a warehouse packing clothesthey introducedgloves about 2 years ago I had a final warning for not wearing my gloves but that was over a year ago and now my record has no live warnings.i have just gone back after furlough and with sanitasing my hands I've packed for a while without my gloves they have took it to disciplinaryagain . Can i get an instant dismissal because I've done it before or not coz it was a year ago.Id rather put my notice in before I'm sacked if i know theregoing to do that x
Jojo - 19-Aug-20 @ 2:13 AM
Need Advice: worked at the Motor Engineering company for 8 years but not registered for UIF,is it fair to just fire me without giving me anything for the service that I worked
Picks - 18-Aug-20 @ 1:55 PM
I work for a large care home, I self shielded for 3 months due to the coronavirus, and have since returned to work on a reduced schedule as I had stipulated for my safety as I'm on an individual risk assessment having chronic athsma, but a couple of weeks ago I went into the work place for my shift, there was no PPE on hand for me, I had to travel the building in search of it, at which point I was then informed they had a suspected covid case, surely being on arisk assessment they should have informed me before I entered the building,now I feel like there not taking my own safety serious enough, I had walked out that day and left a note stating that I didnt feel safe in that environment,but now they wish me to return....they said the test was false and has since came back negative,but I think there saying that just to calm my fears, its literally impossible for any social distancing to be implemented in the workplace and I feel scared that if I return again it could be for the last time....I live alone and I'm a private renter so I'm worried if I refuse to go back and get dismissed would I be entitled to benefits and would I lose my home. It's so unfair to feel i have to choose between my health and safety or my home.
Gem - 18-Aug-20 @ 11:40 AM
I work in a small butty shop after 3 months the owner told me she was letting me go due to a complaint from a customer about undercooked sausage she pointed out that on temp charts I'd put temps at 77 not over 80 she said she was happy with my work other than this to which I said I can easily correct this she now wants to give me a written warning and 6 weeks probation or I can leave is this legal
Shelly - 17-Aug-20 @ 7:55 AM
I work as nanny and domestic worker not registered working over 4 years now because I lost my father there was a funeral at home they sent a message that I must stayed 3 weeks at home to monitor my self for covid19 at the end of months didn't pay my full salary when I ask they fired me.
Jabu - 10-Aug-20 @ 8:46 AM
Can you get fired because you walked out of the work place after having enough of someone bullying you? I’m worried I’ll loose my job
L - 9-Aug-20 @ 4:51 PM
Due to being very short staffed on my shift at a Care home I capably and safely hoisted a patient on my own with no problems, the patients care plan states 2 staff to hoist, I am now under investigation with my work, Have I committed misconduct will I get sacked for this?
Caz - 6-Aug-20 @ 10:13 PM
I want to ask something if i informed my work that i hve problems at home an i cant always go in to work an they hve a problem with me bot going in but of i cant go in i message them can they tell me they can fire me as absconding if i dnt want to resign
Cassie - 4-Aug-20 @ 11:27 PM
I have been given a gross misconduct charge for health and safety breach I walked on pallets to put stickers on to be shelved but there was no space around pallets so that was only way I could put them on but whoever took them off trailer must be at fault surely I have had meeting and they put final warning on me from having a clean record
Melvon Patterson - 3-Aug-20 @ 12:00 PM
I was working as food and beverage manager at the holiday inn and i have not been there for too long when Coronavirus hit and I was made furloughed. Several months down the line I received a letter saying that I am fired because it’s not working etc when before she said that she was happy with my job. She said that she will pay me one month and holidays etc but I’m really upset about that. Can they actually do that? Thanks ??
Miguel - 2-Aug-20 @ 1:05 AM
I am employed on leave of absence due to my medical issues by my doctor plus my age sixty eight years old, one co worker was fired now lm told l can't have contact with her or l will be fired, can they do this?
Debs - 18-Jul-20 @ 1:14 AM
I did night shift last night.my manager and deputy came for check at around 3am. She then met me in sofa were I put bed sheet and made myself comfortableshe then told me you're not sleeping at the moment but you made your self comfortable that means youare going to sleep not so. Which I just answered" yes".that the only thing came to my head because it has never happened to see manager can leave her bed at 3am.. so it was a soaked she is saying now she will make sacked from other job? It is ture.
Hawa - 12-Jul-20 @ 9:51 AM
My boss text me at half 8 on the Sunday to demand I come work in another unit the next day (my day off) I said no and then he went off on me saying my hours would be cut the following week, I’m not a team player because I don’t want to help out. First off it was his mistake he made because he was lazy, secondly every time he has demanded I work. It has been the day before, I have scheduled appointments for these days I have off as they are very regularly my days off. I’m going back to work this week, worried he might just sack me due to covid because they have changed to make and use this as his reason. Any help ?
Reecey - 7-Jul-20 @ 2:24 AM
I’ve been working all the through the pandemic long hours 11 to 12 a day 5 days a week I have complained that some days I couldn’t do the extra time and I was told by my line manager and manager that if I don’t like it find another job my working hours are 7:30 to 5:30 without time for a break also the extra time was unpaid now they have started to bring other staff back the hours have gone down but they have me doing multiple jobs I normally work in telesales but I’ve been driving working the trade counter picking the phone calls up and working in the warehouse I also get sent to other local branches to help them I have been blamed for a mistake in a order today and I wasn’t even at the branch so we had a discussion about it and all I was told if I didn’t like it don’t come back Can these managers get away with this
R - 25-Jun-20 @ 6:37 PM
I need an advice I worked for a couple looking after their child and last week my past away so I have to go to the funeral but my employer refused but I went anyway without their approval now they say I lost my job of which I accept but I ask them for my money for hours I worked forso do thy have the right not to pay me for the days I worked plz help.
Thuli - 23-Jun-20 @ 7:04 PM
Ive worked as a cleaner for the past 4half years ,, since having my daughter ive been juggling work and baby sitters ,, allerah goes to child care tues and thurs usually my mum looks after her while i do my shift 3.30pm till 7.40 monday to friday ,,, i work at high schools and primary schools , long story short ' my mum broke her arm and my daughters 2years old few weeks ago my daughter had a seizer out of no where so i took the week off to watch her but now mum hurting her arm means no more baby sitter,so the first week i went to work the wed thurs and friday injured my nose and back at work stressed from mum being in hospital while dealing with her arm they noticed her heart not good and now she has a recorder device under her skin monitoring her heart so was all abit of a shock im a single mother whos also my mothers carer so instead of asking family n friends i thought just take the week or few off would just be easier and less stressful i knew my boss wouldnt like it as the shifts mon to friday n my team mates will have to all split my shift to cover it so of course i was scared to ask but i wasnt expecting my boss to say that im fired for miss conduct for smoking ,, ive had warnings about being late but i only have one at the end of my shift n taking the big bins out its night time no one sees me and ive never been told im not allowed past 4half years n hes trying to tell me ive already been warned ,, ihad last week off and was asking for monday wed n friday off as allerahs can get looked after by day care those days n organized a friendtill my mums better ,, i didnt even get a chance to tell them they just said i should quit or they have to fire me for being caught smoking on goverment building site ,, i was 1min end of shift n out side near the big bins ,,, im a good hard worker n i needed that extra income im so angry do i have a case orcan they do that ??what are my options
Acecat - 22-Jun-20 @ 4:11 PM
I am returning to work now that some retail is open. I normally work PT. My work stated they need me to work full time. Which I can understand but during this off time I’ve been completing medical test. Not covid 19. Anyway my doctor wrote a note stating I cannot work more then 20 while under medical at this time. Can my employer fire me.
Kathy - 17-Jun-20 @ 3:58 AM
My boss refused to pay me 50% commission that we agreed upon, she only gave me 40% without speaking to me. I told her I never agreed to the 40% and you never spoke to me about why it would be less. I expect my full payment or we would have a big issue on our hands. I went to work Monday and she fired me because I wouldn’t agree to 40% payment. Can she do that?
Eg - 14-Jun-20 @ 12:01 AM
Hello I have been a victim of slander at my workplace due to a fellow worker accusing me of slashing his tyres because we were winding each other up I have been pulled my HR at work and told to pay for his bike tyre and say sorry or have the matter investigated more and have my shop floor fellow workers asked what happens I know I haven’t ever touched his bike and I’m being told off mangerment that they know i slashed his tyres and I might be sacked if I choose to get it investigated more they have no proof of what happens it’s just my word against his and work are saying because I had an argument with him I definitely done the damage to his bike Can anyone help me what are my rights and what can I do I’m worried I’m going to loose my job and the other worker is walking around without a care in the world
Chesney - 30-May-20 @ 4:25 AM
I recently had issues with work due to the covid19, my boss said we was to come back on a 35 hour week instead of the 40 due to the bus times being changed I have got the bus to work for over the last two years and he said that as we wouldn’t have full wage he would cover bus fare. The bus had to change routes for two days meaning I and my other 2 colleagues couldn’t get to work, now he said next time we can not make work we won’t have jobs even though this has happened many times before in the past and has never been an issue we now are at risk of losing our jobs due to a circumstance out of our hands. Is he able to do this? Please help!
Lau - 10-May-20 @ 7:51 PM
I was made redundant on 31st March, due to this pandemic. I asked to go on furlough and company said it was because they had to pay it back, this is rubbish of course. Despite 2 emails to MD, asking to be put on the CJRS and for their reasons as to why not, there was no response. Redundancy letter said it was due to the pandemic. An email 2 weeks before I was told about getting made redundant (by telephone!)As I have less than 2 years service, where do I stand
JW - 8-May-20 @ 9:59 AM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments