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Ending your job


"I was sacked because I called my boyfriend in Australia from work but I only did it once and it was an emergency."
Louise, Essex

If your employer gives you the sack, it is called a dismissal. It is only legal for your employer to sack you if it's done fairly. Otherwise it's against the law and is called "unfair dismissal".

When would it be fair to sack a worker?

  • Misconduct - This is when you behave badly at work. But your employer should give you proper warnings before sacking you for misconduct. If you do something so bad that the employment relationship breaks down, like stealing from the cash till or assaulting someone, it is called "gross misconduct" and you could be dismissed without warnings (as long as you had a chance to explain your behaviour).
  • You aren't capable of doing the job - If you aren't able to do the job you are being paid to do, your employer can dismiss you. But your employer must have given you proper warnings about your poor work and given you opportunities to improve.
  • Redundancy - This is when there is no need for someone to be doing your job any more, for example if your employer is closing down the part of the business you work in. There are complicated rules about redundancy and employers sometimes use it as an excuse to get rid of people unfairly. If you have any doubt whether your redundancy is genuine, you should speak to an employment expert at a nearby advice centre.

When would it be unfair to sack someone?

There are some situations when it is always unfair dismissal. For example, if you are sacked because you are pregnant. You can find other examples on the WorkSMART-TUC website (see Links to Other Websites).

If your employer has just picked on something as an excuse to sack you and/or they have been unreasonable in the way they have gone about it (like not giving you warnings, or a chance to improve), it could be unfair dismissal.

You have to have been working for your employer for at least a year to complain about unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal (see How to tackle problems at work in the menu on the right). But if you think the real reason you are being sacked relates to your race, nationality, gender, religion, sexuality or because you have a disability, you have a right to complain no matter how long you have been in the job - see the Discrimination information in the menu on the right.

Remember: If you have a 'fixed term' contract and it comes to an end, your employer doesn't have to keep you on afterwards but they would have to have a fair reason for not extending your contract, especially if the post will continue with someone else in the job.

What should I do if I think I have been sacked unfairly?
See How to tackle problems at work in the menu on the right.

If I am sacked will I have to leave work immediately?
Only if you're sacked for "gross misconduct". Otherwise, you should be given what is known as a notice period - it's a set period of time between being told you are dismissed and actually leaving. See the section on Notice Periods.

Leaving your Job

I want to leave my job, how do I go about it?

You need to make sure that you tell your employer that you are leaving and give them enough notice. You may have to put the notice in writing. See the section on Notice Periods.

How do I go about making sure I get a decent reference?

Employers are under no legal requirement to provide employees with a reference. But they should give you a reference if they normally give them.

If your employer does give a reference, remember that they have to tell the truth about you, so if they have valid criticisms of your work they may come up.

What money should I get when I leave my job?

Normally you should get full pay up to the day you finish working for your employer, including any accrued holiday pay, overtime and commission etc. If you are being made redundant and you qualify for payment you should also get this when you leave.

If you quit without giving proper notice, your employer should give you the money you earned up to the day you left. But they may be able to withhold money if you have signed a contract which says they don't have to pay you if you don't give proper notice.

Notice Periods

If you are giving notice to your employer:

You have to give at least 1 week's notice if you have been working in the job for a month or more. You might have to give a longer notice period if it says so in your contract.

If your employer is giving you notice:

You should be given at least 1 week's notice if you have been working in your job for more than a month but less than 2 years.

If you have been in the job for 2 years or more, you should get a week's notice for every year you have worked, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. This is the minimum notice you should get - your contract might say you are entitled to more. Where your contract and the law say different things about what notice period you are entitled to, the longest period applies.

December 2011

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Think you may have you been discriminated against?

Unfair dismissal New

Have you been treated unfairly? Do other people seem to get a better deal than you?
See our Is that discrimination? section

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