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Here is the scenario.

I work in the UK, and my probationary period was extended 3 more months a while back and I was given a agreement to sign which stated the points that I should improve.

Today I asked my manager if I could do a Microsoft certification exam and claim the expenses through the company. My manager said that is not possible. He then asked me in a suspicious tone, what I needed a certification for, and I answered that it proves my abilities in a programming language, and that it would be good practice since I do not work a lot with that certain programming language.

I want to know if it is likely for an employer to let someone go if they think that the employee is intending to leave them for another company, considering all the costs associated with recruiting and training employees. if you are an employer what would you think of this situation? do most people assume that certifications are acquired to improve chances of hunting a new job.

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The answer may vary depending on where you are and the terms of your employment contract, if any. And if you're asking whether your employer can legally fire you, that's probably off-topic here. –  Keith Thompson Oct 31 '12 at 23:03
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@xerxes - It sounds like the reason your request was denied was because You Don't Use The Language, earn a certification that will help you do a better job, in a language you use currently. The certification isn't for you only, its also to improve your skills, for the company so you do a better job. –  Ramhound Nov 1 '12 at 11:07
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Personally, I wouild be more concerned about the fact that clearly they are unhappy with your performance. Work on fixcing that first above everything else. Not just for this job, but so you can succeed in the next one. (BTW, very few employers see certifications as impressive and some of us have had such bad experiences with people who couldn't do the work they were certifiied to do that we don't consider a certification worth the paper it is printed on, don't waste your money or your company's money on this stuff.) –  HLGEM Nov 1 '12 at 13:40
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@Enderland - This is a general common knowledge question as opposed to a question asking for a legal opinion. It is not off topic. It would be off topic if the OP were fired and asking if he had grounds to sue or something similer. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Nov 1 '12 at 13:44
    
@HLGEM I myself am highly certified. I also recruit for developers. When skim reading a CV, if nothing stands out, it doesn't get further attention. If there's a certification on there, I may read a little further into it. The certification doesn't determine the ability of the individual, he/she has to prove that in the interview(s) and probationary period. For me, it's mostly just a foot in the door, I still have to prove I can DO what the paper SAYS I can do. The certification may be a demonstration of the individual's self motivation to keep up to date. –  flem May 19 '13 at 9:43

3 Answers 3

In the UK, you cannot claim for unfair dismissal in your first 2 years of employment (1 year, if hired before 6 Apr 2012).

The harsh truth is that you can be fired for any reason1 with only your contracted notice period (often a week, during probation).

1 There are actually exceptions to this, if you feel you have been discriminated against on grounds of Age, Disability, Gender Re-assignment, Marriage and Civil Partnership, Pregnancy and Maternity, Race, Religion or Belief, Sex or Sexual Orientation. But none of these apply to your question.

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It is now two years before you can claim unfir dismissal as of April 2012. –  Neuro Nov 1 '12 at 10:52
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@Neuro: Yeesh. They slipped that through without my noticing. Thanks. –  pdr Nov 1 '12 at 11:43
    
In the United States, this is what we call the Employee at Will Clause. You are an employee as long as the company wills it to be so, and if they don't they can terminate you without reason or question. –  Matt Ridge Nov 1 '12 at 12:09
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@maple_shaft If an employee knows that their company is going to stand behind them, and not fire outright for no apparent reason, the people will become more effective as a whole. If they are under threat of firing just for breathing the wrong way, in many cases they won't be as effective. This isn't just my opinion, I've seen it. –  Matt Ridge Nov 1 '12 at 14:45
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@RandyE I did contract for 15+ years, and also full time work for another 10, if people want to find excuses to fire you they will. Justified or not, EaW is an excuse for laziness, acceptance of intolerance, racism, sexism, etc. Because if you push for a reason why you were fired, they don’t have to give you a reason. They could say it’s not working out. The EaW clause is a weak person’s ability to get rid of people that don’t agree with him/her in any form or fashion. The EaW clause really should be called the anti-yes-man clause. –  Matt Ridge Nov 1 '12 at 17:34

We won't be able to help you with legal questions. But from a practical point of view, it doesn't make sense for a company to fire you for looking. There are two cases:

  1. They don't much like you anyway, in which case letting you quit is way less work and possibly expense than firing you.

  2. They do like you and want to keep you, in which case the last thing they're going to do is fire you pre-emptively.

The only exception I can think of is where the job is so specialized that finding your replacement will be tough. In that case, if they find someone better and you haven't quit yet, they might fire you at that point. But I would be astonished if things got that far without somebody initiating a conversation about your intentions first.

In my experience (US, software industry, professional positions), firing is pretty rare -- usually people quit, and there is the occasional negotiated resignation when things aren't working out. On the other hand, @pdr reports in a comment that he knows professionals in the US who got fired for looking (and one for just updating a LinkedIn profile), so there's variation here.

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I know of a number of US professionals getting fired for looking elsewhere. At least one case where all they did was update their CV on LinkedIn, where they had no contacts from their current company. And this wasn't a case of not liking them, it was a case of trying to intimidate other people into believing there was no way out, so they'd toe the line. –  pdr Nov 1 '12 at 14:55
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@pdr, wow. Thanks (I think) for the enlightenment. Those sound like terrible places to work, and I'm really glad I don't have personal knowledge of that tactic. –  Monica Cellio Nov 1 '12 at 15:47
    
@pdr one of the things I do and will continue to do is update my LinkedIn fairly regularly so there is never a "woah, you are totally revamping your CV on LinkedIn, must be looking for a different job!" type situation –  enderland Nov 2 '12 at 16:47

Since you didn't say whether you were or you weren't actually looking, I'll presume the benefit of the doubt from the perspective of the employer.

From the perspective of the manager, asking to get funded for a certification or training or tooling that wouldn't apply to your current responsibilities would raise my eyebrow of intuitional concern. Something has motivated my employee to seek skills that he doesn't really need here, so what's going on? That by itself is a very honest reaction lacking in any ill-will or preconceived distrust.

Being prepared for this kind of response, if I were in your position, which I have; approach it from the angle that having both a broader skill set, and corresponding credentials that lend weight to it adds value to the firm, from the very least, a marketing perspective. I would then proceed to hammer that point home, tactfully, with a small hammer; and discuss why some of those skills could lend a very practical benefit to some of the lingering or coming concerns.

If they as a manager are hesitant, consider offering to agree to a longer term extension of the existing contract, with a clause of full repayment if the contract isn't reasonably fulfilled. This is a practice that I have seen employed on many occassions, even for jobs where the training and certification directly apply to the current responsibilities.

The alternative, pay for it yourself, to not only save from the hassle, but to take away from this experience the fact you did it on your own without aid or subsidy on their part, and thus owe them nothing beyond the original contract.

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