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Can my Employer Fire Me?

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 7 Jul 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.

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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
I accidently forgot to let my employer know I was still off sick at the end of 7 days can they fire me? I am asthmatic and it normally takes me 2 weeks to recover from an attack I did say on the second day that I had had a bad asthma attack and I would let them know when I was better but there now saying I only had a cough. Where do I stand
Frankie - 4-Apr-20 @ 11:31 AM
I had a accident at work were I work dropped a pallet of eggs and tided it up and put in to barrels the next day I was approached by the owner of the company and told me he wasn’t getting rid of the contaminated waste and that I was to take it and get rid of it or you don’t have a job (blackmail) do I have a case
Emmzie - 28-Mar-20 @ 10:56 AM
My friend was offered a full time position during his probation, however he went into work yesterday and they told him they cant give him the job now. Is this fair
Tim - 24-Mar-20 @ 11:26 AM
I've been working in my current job for 5 and a half months. The probation period is 3 months bit I have never had a review. I thought this meant I was still on probation until they signed me off. I want to give a weeks notice to work somewhere else but have just been told that even of they haven't signed me off I still have finished probation. I read that there is a loophole to this saying that the final review should be done in a reasonable time. So how long is a reasonable amount of time.
Holly - 14-Mar-20 @ 1:15 PM
My boss fired me for gross misconductfor forgetting to lock the shops gate on two different occasions and he didn't have any hearings with me. He also didn't explain to me what gross misconduct is I only found out what it means when I reported the case at the ccma .Is it unfair dismissal
ferlyn - 6-Mar-20 @ 10:14 AM
Start using herbs instead of drugs….Do your research.Also read up COPD HERBAL REMEDY from ww w besthealthherbalcentre co m, Couple drops on tongue replaces an inhalers.Asthma too.Read up on this!All lung problems. Educate yourself and take your own life back.
PROMISELASS - 22-Feb-20 @ 8:35 PM
My daughter was on apprenticeship for a year and a half she text to say she was ill went into work and was told she sat bearing in mind she never took much time off and the day before she’s just finished her apprenticeship can he do this
Kitty - 19-Feb-20 @ 8:16 PM
I had an emergency on the 14th that my 3 Yr old boy is sick. I called my colleague to cover my work while attending to the emergency it slept off my mind calling my supervisor and asking approval because of I was panicking. Now I got a letter of dismissal and am going for hearing on the 5th. I gave him proof medical certificate. Chances of me being dismissed? Must I bring witnesses?
Lihle - 31-Jan-20 @ 7:34 AM
So have been working for my employer for just over 2 years.Been some ups and downs with personality’s but generally ok.We are all working to the extreme to get things done.I’ve had some issues with staff due to personality but these has been sorted. However since then I’ve tried to be low key and not get involved or give my opinion.Everything’s fine till yesterday. My boss threatened me with my job basically saying I am the problem in the office and how I am effects the others??! No idea where this has come from I’ve had no issues in the office in the periods he’s mentioned and it’s side swiped me.He knows I’ve suffered Domestic Violence and we have a very loud aggressive male in the office who is allowed to kick off and swear as he like but I’m not allowed to react to that, nor am I allowed to swear at raise my voice. So I don’t now.Yet I’m being threatened for I have no idea what
Blade - 21-Jan-20 @ 6:58 AM
My 17 year old daughter has been working at a restaurant, everything was fine until last week when they did not put her on the rota and now this week her name is not even on the rota. Shes asked if she still has a job but they are not replying. Is this legal?
Kaz - 15-Dec-19 @ 9:27 PM
I was fired today with immediate affect due to absence. I have 2 children who I have had to have appointments or sick days for. Also I was signed off by a doctor with mental Health issues for 2 weeks. And then I had a car accident last week and they fired me after having to attend the hospital is this legal? This is spread over 18 months
K - 10-Dec-19 @ 4:59 AM
I've had a shoulder injury for 3 years that happened before I started employment at my current job. For this injury I've been undergoing physio and medication wich has not helped. I've been advised not go strain my arm at work or it wont heal. This advice was ignored by my employer and forcing me to work a position that requires me to carry things like TVs. A few months ago I injured myself on my day off skating. NHS prescribed more physio with no progress being made after 3 months it looks like we will have to consider surgery. I've recently been put under new management and it's been decided I will need to go under a development program wich if failed results in a disciplinary. Is there anything I can do?
Chris - 4-Dec-19 @ 10:02 PM
Does anyone know if you can get sacked for having 2 jobs,also having depression caused by an accident at work Jan this year whilst not having two jobs.Thanks
Shaymus - 2-Dec-19 @ 2:24 AM
It is a month before Christmas Can I call my boss and tell them i can not work that day It is my child's 1st Christmas
Bri - 29-Nov-19 @ 6:42 PM
Boss had a little fine and he wants his staff to pay and we work 25 pound a day age18can he do that
Jo - 28-Nov-19 @ 12:43 AM
I was terminated failure to complete compliance do you have any lawyers that know about this
Papo - 26-Nov-19 @ 8:32 PM
Hi my boss has said she will do the Christmas period Rota if we don't like what she puts us down for then we will get our p45 . I said I don't have family near by and she said that's not my problem you will do what I say if not p45 will be issued, can she do that?
Kj - 20-Nov-19 @ 4:53 PM
I have a coffee tract that says I would to night shift as and when required. It actually works that I am in 2 weeks day shift and two weeks night shift. I am having health problems with this rota and it looks like my doctor will be saying I can’t do night shift. After saying this to my boss I was referred to HR where they said if I can’t do night shift it may be a sackable offence. Is this true?
Boaner - 19-Nov-19 @ 1:29 PM
I work in a care home. I really really dont want to have the reponsibilty of administration medication. Can my manager force me to do this as she seems adamant I'm going to and can she sack me if I stick to my guns and refuse.
Rach Wheaver - 12-Nov-19 @ 4:33 PM
Ive been sacked for racial abuse over lies by a colleague. the person i allegedly abused says he had a witness, this witness has lied..I have a witness who was at the scene and they say i didnt say anything,,also a witness given against me has actually stated the contrary to what was alleged and said that i did not say anything either. so they have a witness who says i did, but ive got a witness who says i didnt!! Theyve sacked me on a probability...how can they when there is witnesses that i didnt say it?
Rusty - 1-Nov-19 @ 12:39 PM
I have been dismissed for writing a text to my manager, it reads thus: The whole you digging for you are Digging it for yourself, ever since I Was employed in this company, you create problems for me with the Boss. Do you see that you are causing stress for the Boss, are you happy with that. God will punish you for all the false accusations you have against me. I was first accused for being late and absent I was also accused for not doing my work properly. Luckily I went through disciplinary and appeal hearing and I was found not guilty, it was a lie made by my manager against me. My boss called to give me the appeal decision, and he told me I was found not guilty for all the of fences laid against me except for the massage, and as for the massage he is firing me. I never got a single warning I never got a single notice too. Was I fairly dismissed. I need help.
Sthera - 29-Oct-19 @ 1:20 PM
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