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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 20 Feb 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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I was sacked for numerous issues which my manager will not tell what these 'issues were. One of which was taking a lit cigatette into a shop which is totally untrue. I have not been invited to a meeting to put my side of things and my manager apparently has a person who can 'back him' up. Is this unfair dismissal?
Buck - 20-Feb-17 @ 4:40 PM
2 years ago I was promoted to night manager I never had any training on some parts of my duties so I found the way to do it myself but now it turned out it was a wrong way and they dismissed me on breach of trust grounds Can I challenge their decision as I truly didn't know I was doing something wrong. No one ever came to me saying it's wrong and no one offered me any training to do it right so how was I supposed to know?
Terry - 20-Feb-17 @ 9:30 AM
i have been off work for 1 year and 6 months due to a accident at work i had a operation and still off work due to recovery i cant lift and my job role is a support worker and driver i thought i could go back to work but my doctor has said no so i dont no how long they will hold my job for can anyone give me any advice please.
dopey - 5-Feb-17 @ 1:33 PM
I work in retail and am contracted for 12 hrs per week which is on a flexible Rota bases, so no set days or times. My boss says I can't work elsewhere during my days times. I'm not in for them, even though my other employer would be happy to work around their Rotas, and not within same type of work. I took flexibly to mean I'm not on set day/times,I might be needed to stay longer than rotated. Not to mean that I'm on un paid stand by incase they have any further hours for me. Note that the word on stand by is not in my contract and no money is paid Are they allowed to refuse me the right to earn more money. They said I can only work nights elsewhere, but I have a child to care for then.
Mands - 2-Feb-17 @ 2:42 AM
Hi All, I just received a job offer with a strange notice period clause: I have to give 3 months notice after the probation period but can be dismissed with 1 week notice. I this normal ?
youkos - 23-Jan-17 @ 12:52 PM
I was suppose to open up 8.30 I phoned my manager at 9.30 as I was unwell and over slept literally hand on my heart never meant to be late or be ill I opened up and the member of staff with me told me to go home which I did I am still suffering now I am so upset with myself and for letting down my managers I only get payed minimum wage ! If I open up a shop shouldn't I get paid more anyway I need to no if I have any rights we don't get treated fairly at all ! I understand I was late and it's unacceptable but I can honestly say I never meant to be late or be ill if I new the night before I would of phoned it came out of no were I have holiday rights and can't get no holiday rights for being sick ! I have had a flu and bad migranes I have not been out of bed I'm not normally unwell but I am honest and genuine please help
Yaz - 21-Jan-17 @ 5:26 PM
Hi there, I started working for a new employer in November 2016, after coming back from Christmas break I'd just walked in the door to be told he couldn't "afford" to keep me on past January. I spent five minutes in there before I left and didn't go back after that. Within ten minutes of me leaving he changed my email password even though he said I could go in and use my work station to find a new job if I wanted. Seems all very strange to me. Co-workers in the office said he felt guilty and even though he couldn't afford me he's still paying me for the whole month? Seems a bit fishy to me. Would happily acccept any insight into this.
Chezza - 18-Jan-17 @ 11:05 PM
Can i be dismissed if I refuse to work with someone who bullies.he refuses to speak to me and won't do his job.the company wont except he is a bully.
jeff - 18-Jan-17 @ 7:04 PM
I started working for care company 15 Oct and on 20th November I became I'll and since have found got problem with my spine. I asked if I get ssp they said yes have text message as proof then on the 31st December I rang my employer to find why I'd not received sick pay I was askedwen iI'd be back I said unsure waiting for orthopaedics my employer said have to let me go no notice I'd given sick notes hospital notes and kept them informed then the manager said Isshudn't of had sick pay cause not been there 6 months and am on 0 hour contract which I've never signed a contract and the contract they wanted me to have was 32 hour. I've been trying to get a letter of dismissal and my p45 I've emailed texted and phone and heard nothing. What do I do if I dn't get these I will lose my benefits
jaycurt - 17-Jan-17 @ 12:10 PM
Im a non smoker. My boss said that i will need to like a cigarette up to residents in a smoke room. Im asthmatic. Myself and another girl have been told unless we come up with a solution we will have to carry out tbis duty. What is my right and can i be disaplined or sacked for refusing to carrying on doing this.
blueeyes - 9-Jan-17 @ 10:51 PM
I am working as a receptionist at a restaurant on a 0 hour contract. My manager said that I would be working New Years Eve about 2 weeks before that date to which I never actually agreed. I found out over Christmas that I would have plans over New Years Eve and would no longer be able to work, I gave my manager 5 days notice for this in which he would easily be able to find an agency staff to cover me. On the day of New Years Eve I contacted my manager to confirm I couldn't work, in which he told me he would sack me and revoke any service charge I'm owed if I didn't come to work. He hasn't given me any notice period of my firing and sent me horrible messages telling me I've let everyone down. My question is, what are the laws in terms of employer notice period when you're on a 0 hour contract? Can they sack you with no notice? Also is it possible for the employer to give me a bad reference and revoke my service charge because of this? I put in over 60 hours a week over the Christmas period, I don't think it's fair to be sacked for not being able to work one night.
gtm23 - 2-Jan-17 @ 5:11 PM
Hi I have started work for an agencie at a warehouse in my home town 1i have been their 3 and half to 4 weeks I want 1 day of my scheduled working time what can my workplace due due to firing me or not can they just fire me like that for having one day off or not I want to know I can't call in due to having no minutes but I will however go in on Sunday and tell them the reason why I taken this day off I want to know if I will still have my job or not thanks
Wattdog310 - 30-Dec-16 @ 3:54 PM
I'm seriously worried about being sacked, I work at McDonald's in the uk and I was caught smoking during work hours on a non approved cigarette break whilst working on another task (collecting litter outside) I have been suspended pending an investigation on Monday! Could this issue be really a sackable offence?
Daniel Summers - 30-Dec-16 @ 12:48 AM
i work in a small engineering firm .there are two buildings used for the work area .each building has a gas heater which blows out warm air .only used when factory is cold.neither of the heaters has a flue which takes the exhausted gas to out side .all the fumes go up into the roof of the building.this has been the case for a lot of years.i have often wondered what happens to the gasses when they are in the upper areas of the roof .i have heard about carbon monoxide poisoning .as far as i know ,no one has ever had a major complaint related to the expossure of such gasses ,but i have noticed there are a lot of the workers who seem to have cold symptoms quite a lot.ie running noses and coughs.is it coincidental or is it possible over a long period of time we are all getting symptoms?i remember when i first started working there ,i went through a period when i couldnt go very long with out having a cold.this went on for months. i personally have a blood test every year ,mainly because of high colestorol.i keep asking myself the question ,if there was anything wrong would it have shown up in the tests.
tiktok - 27-Dec-16 @ 7:03 PM
I was working on a carp park marshalling site and fired on the spot because 'I sat in the car all day' when I only went in the car on my half an hours break. I emailed the company saying I would take things further if they didn't pay me the day I got fired as I worked 9am-5pm before getting fired. They replied saying I had grossly misconducted so wouldn't get paid.. Is this fair?/legal
atkinson - 22-Dec-16 @ 6:56 PM
Whilst working a night shift I was asked to go over to another factory on are site. I was told I would be doing a certain job. After about 5 mins I was then told that I would be doing another job which involved the same job I do in my normal factory. I had to have a scan the following morning on my stomach so I said that I didn't think it was fair to do that job as I didn't want to over do it just in case. As the job can be very demanding. My employer knew that I had a scan booked first the following day. So I said that I wasn't going to do that job given my reson why....I was very stressed out what with the scan and other things. I was quite happy to do another job but was told I was needed to do that particular job... So I asked to take Authorised Absence which was given. On return to work the following night I was told that I faced a hearing due to refuse to work....and that my A A should not have been allowed so it was Unauthorised but I had already signed the form for Authorised....and other ppl had been given A A.... Where do I stand on this and the disaplinary hearing about refusing to do that one job...
Big hammer - 22-Dec-16 @ 12:52 AM
My 3 month probationary period of employment ended 3 weeks ago without having a formal review. I've now been asked to attend a meeting to review - can I still be dismissed?
PIFO - 16-Dec-16 @ 5:44 PM
Is it legal to fire me for not being able to work a holiday (employer knew this in advance) for not having childcare for my 3 yr old twins. They know I have no other alternative as well as know I am trying everything possible to not be put in a position to have to choose between the kids and my job. I was told if I dont work these two days, I will be fired. I cant just leave my kids at home! I need some advice and quick!
Coco - 16-Dec-16 @ 1:03 AM
I've just been made permanent had a letter of confirmation but not signed new contact yet. I've just found out I'm 6 weeks pregnant.. when shall i tell them? as I'm sceard they'll find away of sacKing me before signing permanent contact... Ive been working there for a year and a half.
Carla. - 15-Dec-16 @ 8:20 PM
Hello, I am 18 years old and was on an apprenticeship with a 12 month contract. As I went into work this morning I was called into the meeting room by my hr rep and another member of staff. Once inside I was told I was being dismissed with immediate effect and that I would be paid a month in lieu as my work was not up to standard. I am a copywriter, in the next breath I was told I was a great writer. That is all that was said to me, I was so upset I left the building as soon as I could. Later this morning my mom went to my place of work and collected my personal belongings and gave them back my works parking permit. She was told exactly the same thing, my work wasn't up to standard but I'm a brilliant writer. She asked for a copy of the grievance procedure which she was told would be mailed to me. I then approached my training provider who runs my apprenticeship scheme and they spoke to my previous place of employment and told me they were told no clear reason for my dismissal. I have since found a copy of the grievance procedure in the back of my employee handbook which says - the company reserve the right not to follow the disciplinary procedure within the first two years of someone's employment. I don't know where to go from here. In all my reviews for college and work I was told I was doing well, learning new things and there were no problems. If I had done something I could understand why I was fired, but I haven't and the company haven't been able to tell me, my parent or my training provider a clear reason for my dismissal. From what I've read on the internet because I have only worked for them for 9 months and not two years there is nothing I can do. Is this correct? Thanks kgwills
Kgwills - 14-Dec-16 @ 11:28 PM
Hello, I am 18 years old and was on an apprenticeship with a 12 month contract. As I went into work this morning I was called into the meeting room by my hr rep and another member of staff. Once inside I was told I was being dismissed with immediate effect and that I would be paid a month in lieu as my work was not up to standard. I am a copywriter, in the next breath I was told I was a great writer. That is all that was said to me, I was so upset I left the building as soon as I could. Later this morning my mom went to my place of work and collected my personal belongings and gave them back my works parking permit. She was told exactly the same thing, my work wasn't up to standard but I'm a brilliant writer. She asked for a copy of the grievance procedure which she was told would be mailed to me. I then approached my training provider who runs my apprenticeship scheme and they spoke to my previous place of employment and told me they were told no clear reason for my dismissal. I have since found a copy of the grievance procedure in the back of my employee handbook which says - the company reserve the right not to follow the disciplinary procedure within the first two years of someone's employment. I don't know where to go from here. In all my reviews for college and work I was told I was doing well, learning new things and there were no problems. If I had done something I could understand why I was fired, but I haven't and the company haven't been able to tell me, my parent or my training provider a clear reason for my dismissal. From what I've read on the internet because I have only worked for them for 9 months and not two years there is nothing I can do. Is this correct? Thanks kgwills
Kgwills - 14-Dec-16 @ 10:35 PM
Woo - Your Question:
I'm a agency worker and I've been working for Harrow council for over 4 years and a couple of weeks ago I was dismissed without notice as I was driving home from work is there anything I can do

Our Response:
What are the terms of your contract with the agency? What were the reasons for dismissal? Not enough information for us to help here sorry.
SafeWorkers - 13-Dec-16 @ 2:33 PM
Kirs - Your Question:
He wasn't told it was a trial shift. He received a phone call from the assistant manager, and was asked if he wanted a job. My brother, of course, said yes and was told to be at the place for 12noon. They had six hours training prior to this (2hrs a night on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). He was supposed to have worked 14 hours (12noon - 1.30am), but he got sacked after 10. He went back to the place in question the following day and asked why specifically he was sacked. The manager he spoke to told him that he was too slow, and they didn't have time to allow him to improve, even though there was nothing to do.

Our Response:
No there isn't much he can do about this, but he should make sure he is paid for the hours he did.
SafeWorkers - 13-Dec-16 @ 2:02 PM
I'm a agency worker and I've been working for Harrow council for over 4 years and a couple of weeks ago I was dismissed without notice as I was driving home from work is there anything I can do
Woo - 12-Dec-16 @ 10:10 PM
He wasn't told it was a trial shift. He received a phone call from the assistant manager, and was asked if he wanted a job. My brother, of course, said yes and was told to be at the place for 12noon. They had six hours training prior to this (2hrs a night on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). He was supposed to have worked 14 hours (12noon - 1.30am), but he got sacked after 10. He went back to the place in question the following day and asked why specifically he was sacked. The manager he spoke to told him that he was too slow, and they didn't have time to allow him to improve, even though there was nothing to do.
Kirs - 12-Dec-16 @ 5:34 PM
Kirs - Your Question:
My brother started his job today at a new sports bar that had its opening this afternoon (10.12.2016). He hadn't had an interview, or asked for references. He was on a zero-hours contract.He worked there for 10 hours (had a break after 7) collecting glasses and bar work. During his shift, the boss turned to him and sacked him, without warning, for "being too slow", despite there being no glasses to collect and no customers at the bar.Can his manager do this?

Our Response:
Was this a trial shift? Was he actually sacked or just not "taken on"? There's really not enough information here for us to comment further.
SafeWorkers - 12-Dec-16 @ 2:21 PM
My brother started his job today at a new sports bar that had its opening this afternoon (10.12.2016). He hadn't had an interview, or asked for references. He was on a zero-hours contract. He worked there for 10 hours (had a break after 7) collecting glasses and bar work. During his shift, the boss turned to him and sacked him, without warning, for "being too slow", despite there being no glasses to collect and no customers at the bar. Can his manager do this?
Kirs - 11-Dec-16 @ 12:03 AM
Been working at a place for 3months i had to pay alot of money for 'training' which i get back after 3 months but my family booked a surprise holiday for me which they booked before i started the job my grandma told him it was a surprise that was already booked and hes telling me if i go on the holiday i wont have a job and im not commited to the company, as you can only have holiday when the place shuts in some halfterms that they choose. I have signed no contract.. Can he sack me for something that i didnt know about and was booked before starting at the job? Im worried i wont get my training money back from them as it was £474 i had to pay.
Kn - 10-Dec-16 @ 9:43 PM
Dell - Your Question:
I work in a restaurant as a full time waitress on a zero hour contract and had an arguement with a supervisor because he was treating me unfairly by leaving me on my own to do everything in the restaurant for half a. Hour because he was too busy chit chatting to his polish mate ( both are polish) and wasn t happy when he came back in because there was still loads to do and there was 3 of us stay all together on a very quite breakfast service. It would have been nice with a little bit of help from other members of staff and to me he can't be trusted on his own as a supervisor, Then Ive received a phonecall from the restaurant manager after having a chat with the HR and he has told me that I was the one that was in the wrong for not managing to complete tasks when he was the one kicked off at me and swore. Also they've made situations worse by lying over the actions that I didn't do and now the manager has told me to have a week off, then come in for a meeting with the HR because as far as he's concerned he thinks that I should look for a new job!! Can he or is he sacking me for this even if I'm on a zero hour contract or is this just some sort of a threat?? I've had a written letter warning since two years back and the circumstances has still not changed after when agreed it was suppose to be 6 months since those actions were made for what they do not tolerate. Is this illegal??

Our Response:
If you're on a genuine zero hours contract, you employer can choose whetherand when to offer you any work, and you can choose whether to accept it.
SafeWorkers - 1-Dec-16 @ 2:21 PM
I work in a restaurant as a full time waitress on a zero hour contract and had an arguement with a supervisor because he was treating me unfairly by leaving me on my own to do everything in the restaurant for half a. Hour because he was too busy chit chatting to his polish mate ( both are polish) and wasn t happy when he came back in because there was still loads to do and there was 3 of us stay all together on a very quite breakfast service. It would have been nice with a little bit of help from other members of staff and to me he can't be trusted on his own as a supervisor, Then Ive received a phonecall from the restaurant manager after having a chat with the HR and he has told me that i was the one that was in the wrong for not managing to complete tasks when he was the one kicked off at me and swore. Also they've made situations worse by lying over the actions that I didn't do and now the manager has told me to have a week off, then come in for a meeting with the HR because as far as he's concerned he thinks that I should look for a new job!! Can he or is he sacking me for this even if I'm on a zero hour contract or is this just some sort of a threat?? I've had a written letter warning since two years back and the circumstances has still not changed after when agreed it was suppose to be 6 months since those actions were made for what they do not tolerate. Is this illegal??
Dell - 30-Nov-16 @ 8:16 PM
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