Fair Reasons For Dismissal – Can my Employer Fire Me For No Reason?

If your employer threatens to fire you, it can be a very worrying time. It’s important to understand what fair reasons for dismissal are in this type of workplace situation.

Question marks - what are fair reasons for dismissal?

What Situations Can I Be Fired In?

A boss threatening to sack you can be an empty threat with no legal basis. However, there are situations in which you can be immediately dismissed; such as incidents of gross misconduct.

You may also be able to be sacked for no reason during a probation period when you start employment, or prior to having two years continuous service with an employer. The exception to this is dismissal which would amount to discrimination against a protected characteristic.


The 5 Fair Reasons For Dismissal

There are 5 reasons why you can be fairly dismissed. These are laid down in the Employment Rights Act 1996:-

  1. Capability – this covers performance related issues as well as disability which means you can no longer do your job, even if reasonable adjustments have been made.
  2. Illegality – you can be dismissed if it would no longer be legal to employ you. For example, a truck driver who has had a driving ban, or an employee who’s working rights on a residency visa have expired.
  3. Misconduct – this can be for things like persistent lateness, or taking unauthorised time off work. Usually there will have been written warnings leading up to dismissal. In cases of gross misconduct for issues like violence in the workplace, or theft – you can be dismissed immediately. However, a fair process must be followed in deciding to sack you.
  4. Redundancy – there must be a genuine reason for redunancy such as the company ceasing trading, or there no longer being enough work for all staff. A formal redundancy process must be followed.
  5. Some Other Substantial Reason – this can be anything not covered above such as a fixed term contract coming to an end, but there must be evidence that the dismissal is fair.

Our article looking at if you can be sacked for being off sick with depression takes a closer look at capability procedures.


Being Made Redundant

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.


Being Fired For Gross Misconduct

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

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

If your employer fires you and does not ensure they are using fair reasons for your dismissal, you may be able to take legal action.

  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.

The definition of gross misconduct 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.

Although employers must usually show the dismissal of an employee is fair, there are some situations where this obligation under UK employment law does not apply.

During Probation Periods

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.


Employees with Less Than Two Years Service

Satutory protection against unfair dismissal is only accrued once an employee has been in a role for two years.

If an employee has been in a job for less than two years, an employer is not obligated by law to demonstrate the reasons for dismissal were fair. This means an employer may be able to terminate your employment legally without requirement to undertake disciplinary procedures. However, you are still protected against being fired for reasons covered in the Disability Discrimination Act (see protected characteristics above).


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.


Changes to Working Hours

Changes to working hours are not always a legal reason for dismissal, but some scenarios can lead to an employee being fired.

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

However, 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. Your employer does not have to agree to this. If they do not agree and you still refuse to work required shifts this may be a disciplinary issue. It is unlikely that this gross misconduct, but a number of disciplinary issues could lawfully lead to job loss


Situations Where it can be Illegal to Fire An Employee

Employers must ensure that they are using fair reasons for dismissal. Workers have various rights protected by UK law. Sacking an employee who has rights protected by these laws would leave the employer open to being taken to an employment tribunal.

Protected Characteristics

Protected characteristics are enshrined in the equality act. If you lose your job on grounds covered in the act, your employer will be in breach of the law and you may be able to take them to an employment tribunal.

You cannot be fired for reasons covered by these protected characteristics:-


Working Time Directive

The working time directive protects working hours and breaks in UK law. If your employer fires you for taking the breaks you have a right to under this legislation, they have acted illegally.

The Working Time Directive gives workers a number of rights and protections. These include:

  • Working a maximum of 8 hours out of every 24 hours for night shift workers.
  • 1 day off in every 7 days.
  • 11 hours off in every 24 hours.
  • A short in-work break every 6 hours.
  • 4 weeks paid leave every year.

Any worker over 18 years old can opt out of the Working Time Directive. However, you cannot legally be fired for your refusing to do so. Equally, if you have opted out and choose to opt back in, your decision to opt back in to the Working Time Directive is not a reason to lawfully fire you.


There is no lawful way to just fire someone “on the spot”. If you are sacked, it must be fair and correct procedures must have been followed.

Further Information

The ACAS guide on dismissals and fair reasons for dismissal is helpful for both employees and employers. Our guide to equal opportunities at work shares further information on how workplaces should promote equality and diversity.

30 thoughts on “Fair Reasons For Dismissal – Can my Employer Fire Me For No Reason?

  1. Matt says:

    I made some home made goods and asked my boss that if I was properly insured could I sell them in his shop and give him a cut of the profit. He said I would be able to so when I got my insurance I put some out for sale. A few days later one of my colleagues told my supervisor that I was selling them and when she asked him if he knew he said no! Now I am terrified that I am going to be accused of trying to steal although none of the goods were actually sold. I have been employed for nearly 5 years and my service has so far been exemplary.

  2. Mely says:

    I’m working since 2011 with a small hotel from London, recently since I’m on the furlough my boss tell me I have to work 2 days per week free because already I have the government money so he start to treating me to pay him weekly amount of payers fee what he has to pay from his side and if I don’t pay him ,hi will take me out from the payroll and under the furlough as well .So please I need some advice what I have to do ….I want to know if he is taking me out from the payroll and fired me ,what can I do to get the furlough money

  3. M says:

    My employer and social services have suspended me for 2.5 months, now my employer is saying they will sack me for gross misconduct unless I resigne. So I feel forced to leave. My employer said they didn’t want to do this but the social worker has forced them to. I did put a complaint in against the social worker because she doesn’t like me and heard nothing about it. If I leave is this classes as constructive dismissal?

  4. Simona Jurchescu says:

    One of mi colleagues complain i was asleep during the night shift but is not true i was watching mi fone on a serial in Prime ..and I have mi foot up.it was between 2,40 -5 in the morning and evrithig was done by me ,,how I can prove this is true .All this allegations they are false

  5. Muss says:

    Where do I stand my boss at My Work told me that he had a complaint from a customer. He said he would let me know about what decision he was going to make. I am still waiting for this decision. This was on the 22nd of July. I have text him and asked him with no reply from him. I saw him he told me he would get in touch and I’m still waiting. I have had no warning or been suspended. But he has Still paying my 16 hours still paying my 16 hours. I have given him a sick note stating work related stress. Then on the 12th of October he knocked on my door and gave me some Wage slips and a P 45 what can I do about it

  6. Lola says:

    I had a job where house comes with job I got the sack by letter but the letter is not letter headed by firm I worked for is it legal

  7. EN says:

    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.

  8. Fallingdown says:

    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

  9. Oldie says:

    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

  10. Dusty says:

    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?

  11. Fab says:

    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?

  12. Can says:

    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

  13. Mapunya Chris says:

    I work at warehouse where I was driving a reachtruck then o this other day I mistakenly dropped a full pallet then I got fired fir that mistake .

  14. Takwane says:

    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?

  15. Jojo says:

    I workning in a warehouse packing clothes they introduced gloves 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 disciplinary again . 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 there going to do that x

  16. Picks says:

    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

  17. Gem says:

    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 a risk 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.

  18. Shelly says:

    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

  19. Jabu says:

    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.

  20. L says:

    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

  21. Caz says:

    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?

  22. Cassie says:

    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

  23. Melvon Patterson says:

    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

  24. Miguel says:

    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 ??

  25. Debs says:

    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?

  26. Hawa says:

    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 comfortable she 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.

  27. Reecey says:

    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 ?

  28. R says:

    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

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