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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 26 Nov 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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I've been doing an apprenticeship for the past 10-11 months and my employer has ended my contract there and then but without giving a proper detailed reason why. My employer also didn't give me a letter or anything discussing what is happening and what will happen and it was just me and her in the room at the time. I'm not sure what my rights are as an apprentice as this is my first apprentice job. She also never mentioned the words gross misconduct during the meeting and I'm really worried about the future and if i'ill be able to work with children again as one of the reasons she gave me was that I'm not being as emotional involved with the children and this is really worrying me
Sophy - 26-Nov-18 @ 9:49 PM
My sister (19) started a role 5 weeks ago, there was a 4 week trial and she was told last week they are happy to keep her on with a view to starting an apprenticeship for hairdressing. She was sent home from work a week ago as she wasn't in a good state for work, this was the last day of her working week and she returned to work on the Tuesday (first day of week). A separate issue, our father has terminal cancer. Thursday he was rushed to hospital after having seizures. The family went to his aid. Obviously upset my sister felt she had to attend. Friday our father is still poorly in hospital, my sister went to work in the morning, left at 1 to go to be with our father and was told she had to return for 5pm to support with work. She was there at 4pm. My sister was then sent home at 4.45 and was told we will talk after Christmas (their busiest time), laying her off work without pay. No contracts have been signed. Is there anything that can be done, she has payment records?!
Kl2212 - 16-Nov-18 @ 7:02 PM
My 19 year old daughter has just went into work today and the boss has told her she is sacked. Its a zero hours contract and part time whilst she is at college. He said her conduct to customers was not professional and her dress code didn't meet requirements. Can he do this even tough she has had no formal warning or written warning?
JACK3302 - 14-Nov-18 @ 12:42 PM
Hi ive been working for a company day and night 5 days 10 shifts a week. They are saying im on zero hour contract which i knew nothing about haven't signed a contract with them. They recently taken on new workers and told me I will not be getting any more work and giving my shift to the new workers. Is there anyway of fighting this?
Dannyb - 12-Nov-18 @ 8:31 PM
Hi, I am a subcontractor who was put on a job that's overrun due to the supervisor incorrectly costing it. The manager is now refusing to pay me for the work I have done so far. Can he do this, whether the job is complete or not? Thanks.
dminorsaddestofallke - 15-Oct-18 @ 10:08 AM
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
My partner has a zero hours contract with a large high street retailer. She has missed a total of seven shifts in four years. All through illness. She has been asked to attend a disciplinary meeting and faces dismissal. Should she have received previous verbal or written warnings like an employee or can she simply be given no further hours if the employer wishes to dismiss her?
S.Raoul - 11-Sep-18 @ 9:08 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
Ames - Your Question:
On behalf of a Friend, works for independantly run post office, has recently been told due to new management they don't want to keep the old staff? With no official contract is this allowed? What are there rights?

Our Response:
Does the friend have a contract at the moment?
SafeWorkers - 28-Aug-18 @ 12:56 PM
On behalf of a Friend, works for independantly run post office,has recently been told due to new management they don't want to keep the old staff? With no official contract is this allowed? What are there rights?
Ames - 25-Aug-18 @ 8:02 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
Hello, I am a receptionist and barista at a nail salon, I am contracted on fixed 35 hours a week. On June 20th I emailed head office and my manager my notice and that July 21st 2018 will be my last day. 5 days later I applied forholiday leave for 6 days between 2nd and 7th of July which was excepted. On the 8th July when I got back , I messaged my manager that she still hasn't sent me my rota for the week and she replied saying she will on the 10th July which she hasn't. I checked my emails and realised she did however send me a copy of the rota of the week I am in holiday and it shows that they already hired a new receptionist/barista. Do you think they can just not give me any hours since I am leaving soon?
A - 11-Jul-18 @ 3:28 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
Angi - Your Question:
I'm a p a to a disabled lady have a contract 20hrs per wk have not been in work due to 2 health and safety issues since September. My employer put in writing she would sort these issues and pay me till I can return to work still these issues are not done. Yesterday I received a letter from the company my employer uses to do pay roll stating enclosed is your p45 closing your employment with name of my employer p45 states leaving date 29 05 18 I get paid monthly on the 29th and was paid in June and spoke to my employer just before this she did not state about my employment been finished and I have had nothing in writing I have been in this employment since February 2006

Our Response:
Who else did you contact about the health and safety issues? Have you been paid and yet not worked September?This is a really strange scenario. Talk to your employer first of all and ask about this. If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed, tell your employer you are considering making a claim, then contact ACAS for advice on the next step.
SafeWorkers - 3-Jul-18 @ 10:15 AM
I'm a p a to a disabled lady have a contract 20hrs per wk have not been in work due to 2 health and safety issues since September. My employer put in writing she would sort these issues and pay me till I can return to work still these issues are not done. Yesterday I received a letter from the company my employer uses to do pay roll stating enclosed is your p45 closing your employment with name of my employer p45 states leaving date 29 05 18 I get paid monthly on the 29th and was paid in June and spoke to my employer just before this she did not state about my employment been finished and I have had nothing in writing I have been in this employment since February 2006
Angi - 3-Jul-18 @ 9:29 AM
Hook - Your Question:
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

Our Response:
What does your contract say? Have you opted out of the working time regulations? Sorry we need more information
SafeWorkers - 29-Jun-18 @ 3:08 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
Js - Your Question:
Hi,I work for a shopping centre,who is changing there third party company that will be hired for a number of years that will deal with wages,we have a letter stated the change but we have a RIGHT to opt out but if we do so we terminate our contract immediately,is this right can there fire us if I have the right the opt-out.Cheers

Our Response:
What are you opting in or out of? Sorry you haven't made this clear.
SafeWorkers - 26-Jun-18 @ 2:33 PM
Hi, I work for a shopping centre,who is changing there third party company that will be hired for a number of years that will deal with wages,we have a letter stated the change but we have a RIGHT to opt out but if we do so we terminate our contract immediately,is this right can there fire us if I have the right the opt-out. Cheers
Js - 24-Jun-18 @ 4:38 AM
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
Hi I work on a zero hours contract doing between 22 & 18hrs a week, I've recently asked for reduced hrs due to suffering with osteoarthritis. I've worked for the company over a year now.
Sandy - 17-Jun-18 @ 6:25 PM
Victoria- Your Question:
Hi,I'm working as a barber. Worked there for 8 years Recently reduced my working days(from 4 to 2),have no contract. Have another job in the same area. My boss wants to fire me because I work some were else. Can she do it? What are my rights?Thank you Victoria

Our Response:
You need to ask for a copy of your contract. You should have been given a written statement of particulars (years ago) if not an official contract and this should give details of whether you can work elsewhere. If it's not in your contract and your employer has never told you that you can't work in an additional job, it could be difficult for them to fire you.
SafeWorkers - 13-Jun-18 @ 2:26 PM
I have a work friend he is 16 years old he had a operation on his thumb so he was off work for around 4 weeks he is on zero hours contract no they won't take him back can they do this or is it unfair dismissal thanks sue
Susie - 11-Jun-18 @ 11:03 PM
Hi, I'm working as a barber. Worked there for 8 years Recently reduced my working days(from 4 to 2),have no contract. Have another job in the same area. My boss wants to fire me because I work some were else. Can she do it? What are my rights? Thank you Victoria
Victoria - 9-Jun-18 @ 7:07 PM
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
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