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My situation is a little different to others and needs some explaining.

Me and my boss do not have a very good relationship on a personal level. We often argue about the morals and future of the company, as he is the sort of person that uses the profits from the business to go on expensive holidays at least once or twice a month and won’t stick around to help during busy periods. Clearly caring about himself more than the well-being of his employees, and the development of his company.

A few weeks ago I asked for a day off, as I had been given tickets to go to an exhibition in London (I asked a couple of weeks in advance and knew that there was enough staff in to cover for me). However, he quite spitefully responded saying ‘no’. It came around to the day and I decided to say screw this and called in sick. He suspected that I was faking it (which I was), and wrote me an awful email saying that I must attend a disciplinary meeting to review my employment at the company. He also deducted my raise that I was due to get at the end of the month. At the end of the email it said ‘Please acknowledge receipt of this email by return today.’

This was really a line crosser for me and I started sending out my CV and exploring other job opportunities. Due to my strong CV I got some really good responses. After 6 days finally responded to my boss's email with my letter of resignation. In my letter of resignation, I stated that I was happy to work my 2 week notice period (I also wanted to for the extra money). However, his response to my letter of resignation was ‘Your conduct has not met the standards required to continue working at the company and your employment is terminated with immediate effect.’

Is he allowed to do this? Effectively fire me when I hand in my resignation?

In addition to this, due to the fact that he is a very spiteful type of person, I am certain that he will refuse to write me a reference. Despite the fact that during my time at the company I was very hard working, punctual, and often went above and beyond and worked extra hours and un-contracted weekends.

Is there anything that I can do about this? His refusal to write a reference could be damaging to my future career endeavours, despite never stepping out of line (except the single incident explained above).

Sorry for the wall of text, just hoping that someone more educated on the subject can provide me with some closure.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Dec 10 '19 at 17:22
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    There seems to be some confusion about what actually happened after the "sick day". Were you present at work but simply did not respond to the email, and you managed to do that for a week without anyone approaching you about it? Or were you absent from work from the sick day until your email response? – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 19:08
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    @Kevin Right, but whether OP was 1) AWOL or present and 2) Received any other communications (whether ignored or not) in addition to the original email request, are both important considerations. As for the communication line being available: I feel it is reasonable to assume that the meeting the boss requested would have been a sham, that they just wanted to cause problems for OP at that point and possibly get rid of OP - it's common enough in toxic workplaces. If OP is giving us all the facts straight, then replying to the email sooner may be ill-advised. Answers may change from these facts. – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 19:16
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    "After 6 days finally responded to my boss's email with my letter of resignation."Did you show up to work during these six days? Because if not, that further deteriorates your case for unfair dismissal. – perenniallydisappointed Dec 11 '19 at 10:25
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    Did your manager follow the companies disciplinary process? – mattumotu Dec 11 '19 at 14:31

10 Answers 10

138

You (ex) boss doesn't sound like the easiest person to work for, however being honest you don't sound like the easiest person to employ either.

uses the profits from the business to go on expensive holidays at least once or twice a month

Yep, that's kind of what profits are for.

A few weeks ago I asked for a day off as I had been given tickets to go to an exhibition in London (I asked a couple of weeks in advance and new that there was enough staff in to cover for me) however he quite spitefully responded saying ‘no’.

While it sounds a bit harsh given what you've said about making sure staff were about that day etc. Your boss isn't obligated to say "yes". And frankly if that had started you thinking about resigning then I wouldn't have blamed you.

But then you did this:

It came around to the day and I decided to say screw this and called in sick, he suspected that I was faking it (which I was)

You faked a sick day, in perhaps the most obvious circumstances ever.

wrote me an awful email saying that I must attend a disciplinary meeting to review my employment at the company

I'm not surprised - whatever else may have passed between the two of you prior to this what you did could be considered gross misconduct (Faking sick leave has been previously held up in court as gross misconduct), you then go on to not respond to this mail. Regarding withholding the raise money - we don't have enough info to be certain but assuming this was a new raise for this month and not one that had started yet I think you're going to be s##t out of luck there.

So you ask:

Is he allowed to do this? Effectively fire me when I hand in my resignation?

From the information we have, yes he can. Normally you'd be entitled to the pay for your notice period (even if they asked you not to work it) but given the circumstances and the wording of his response to you:

Your conduct has not met the standards required to continue working at the company and your employment is terminated with immediate effect.

I think you're being fired for gross misconduct - in which case there's no notice pay, nothing. You didn't engage with the disciplinary proceedings (except to resign 6 days later!)

I am certain that he will refuse to write me a reference.

I think you're right - and it's likely nothing to do with him being "spiteful", you were fired for gross misconduct, do you seriously expect a reference?

Is there anything that I can do about this?

No.

His refusal to write a reference could be damaging to my future career endeavours

You probably should have thought about that beforehand. I appreciate that sounds harsh but I think you need to face that you've messed up here, badly. We've all been there and thought "screw this" when we've felt an employer has treated us unfairly but you can rarely do that without some consequences for it - and if you're prepared to take those consequences then by all means but I think you've been naive here and ultimately it's going to hurt you more than anyone.

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    NOTICE of advisory to readers: Consult a lawyer. This answer makes legal assumptions which I am highly skeptical of. In its defense, your question may have been better on law.SE. I would be shocked if "gross misconduct" were upheld in court for this situation. Even if the employer is not legally obligated to allow a specific vacation date, they are obligated to reasonably allow you to use your vacation time; they cannot just say no often without reason. If you consider accepting this answer, consult a lawyer first. – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 18:30
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    Additionally, sick days can also be used for things like mental health days in some jurisdictions. Law.SE seems like the place to go. – Nate Diamond Dec 10 '19 at 20:49
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    That’s not “what profits are for” unless he is the sole owner of the business. – WGroleau Dec 11 '19 at 1:42
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    @Aaron Firstly in the now migrated comments I do stress that should the OP wish to fight that an appropriate legal professional should be consulted. Secondly I make no "legal assumptions". Thirdly we have no indication that the employer was saying no "often". – motosubatsu Dec 11 '19 at 6:48
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    @WGroleau or any other shareholder, you don't have to be "sole owner" to partake in profits – motosubatsu Dec 11 '19 at 6:50
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To address the main question: can you be fired immediately in response to giving notice? No. You have certain rights when you are dismissed.

An employer can give you what is often called a counter-notice but this cannot be less than the minimum term required by your contract. If none is defined the legal minimum is 1 week.

Immediate or summary dismissal can be done in basically any situation if the threshold for gross misconduct is met. This is defined as:

Gross misconduct can include things like theft, physical violence, gross negligence or serious insubordination.

With gross misconduct, you can dismiss the employee immediately as long as you follow a fair procedure. You should investigate the incident and give the employee a chance to respond before deciding to dismiss them.

But even then some sort of process would need to be followed. Whether the suspected abuse of a sick day qualifies for this is debatable but highly unlikely. But you would have to start a procedure to contest this.

In short, your immediate dismissal was unfounded and you have some recourse against that specific aspect of this situation. It would be best to reach out to ACAS to discuss this case with them.

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    Was it really unfounded, though? A procedure was started with the email that invited OP to the disciplinary hearing. OP was given a chance to respond - the hearing. They chose to ignore both. Do the regulations require anything more? – muru Dec 10 '19 at 2:13
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    @Lilienthal the company tried to follow the process, it was OP who refused to join them on that journey. Cannot have your cake and eat it too. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 10 '19 at 10:16
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    By handing in notice without responding to the email, OP was effectively opting out of the procedure as it would normally take longer than 2 weeks to resolve these things and the process can't be completed if they are no longer an employee – Lord Jebus VII Dec 10 '19 at 10:40
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    Also, six days is not an unreasonable amount of time to take to consider a response to this kind of email. – ThomasRedstone Dec 10 '19 at 11:04
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    @TymoteuszPaul The employee tried to follow the process too, it was the company who refused to just let the OP to just take a reasonable day off. The company likewise cannot have their cake and eat it too. Unfortunately for OP, some of the nuances won't affect a legal battle, but surely it will be obvious that there was no misconduct of the "gross" kind. – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 18:43
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Lying about being sick to avoid work is likely enough to get you fired, and then instead of attending the disciplinary review to give an explanation for your action you've given them notice to quit. This very much sealed your fate, and while people cannot generally just get fired without notice, what you did is very severe. I know it may seem like something people do all the time (faking sick days) but that's not a defence, even if it were true (which is debatable).

Is there anything that I can do about this?

Right now? Probably not.

Since they are happy to terminate you effective immediately, this means they can work around the fact that you are not there, so you have nothing to bargain with.

The fact that you handed your resignation means absolutely nothing when there are egregious circumstances, like faking illness to get out of work. They clearly want you out, and you've given them the noose to hang you with, without having to worry about wrongful termination.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Neo Dec 10 '19 at 13:44
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+200

To answer your first question, yes you can be fired even if you have handed in your notice. Until you are no longer employed by the company they can, if they have cause, fire you whether its during resignation or redundancy etc.

Most likely, given my own experience of a few businesses, your disciplinary hearing will have found you to have been guilty of Gross Misconduct for being away without official leave, compounded by the fact that you were clearly lying about being sick. As you didn't attend the hearing yourself, it will have went on without you and without you having any input into changing their decision.

What you can do now is appeal that decision, you have the right to do so and can submit this to your HR function ASAP (normally within 5 working days), you will then have an opportunity to put your case forward and plead for leniency. Best case is you get to keep your job with a Final Written Warning, worst case they uphold the previous decision. You could use it as a chance to ask to leave by mutual agreement immediately, thus keeping a clean record and the business will have no further dealings. This then waves your right to do what I mention below.

IANAL, but if you fail in your appeal you could potentially take the company to an Employment Tribunal as you may have been fired without them following proper processes (issuing of letters, issuing an outcome letter from the last disciplinary hearing) however your chances, in my opinion, would not be great as whilst the business might not have followed process - you still committed an act that warranted dismissal.

TL;DR - Appeal the decision and ask to terminate your employment mutually, to keep a clean employment record, otherwise when a new company asked their HR department about your employment they will mention you were sacked for whatever reason they gave at your hearing.

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  • From the way the question is written it doesn't look like there is an independent HR office. If the OP wants to fight this yhey may have to take it to an industrial tribunal. – JGNI Dec 10 '19 at 9:49
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    Did the tribunal say he should be fired? Why wait 5 days to inform someone they were fired? I would request the actual minutes of the hearing to be sure that was decided then. It looks very much like they were not going to fire the employee till the employee handed in the notice (which would not be a valid cause in the UK). The fact that the act could have warranted dismissal is irrelevant if the company did not decide it did at the time. – Christy Dec 10 '19 at 11:02
  • @Christy they probably postponed their decision as they did not hear back from OP who did not show up to give them the benefit of the doubt or just to wait for a reaction to turn this around. The reaction was OP's resignation, which meant for them that OP totally ignored the hearing and the process so without any defence of what happened to paint a different view, they went ahead with what seemed appropriate given what their perception was. Seems pretty straight forward. The handing in was not the cause, the cause was faking sick AND totally ignoring the process to deal with that misconduct. – Frank Hopkins Jul 23 at 13:05
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Note: I'm assuming OP lives in the UK, judging by their name and reference to London.

Let's get the answer that you want to hear out of the way- no, a company cannot terminate you without cause and resigning is not a valid cause. Sometimes an employee will be asked to leave immediately rather than working notice but in that case they are still paid and technically employed (this is known as Garden Leave).

Lets also ignore your comments about how you think your boss is a jerk and try to vaguely imply that he's embezzling money. Even if that last part were true, which it isn't, it's irrelevant here.

The circumstances under which you can be fired will be in your contract, and probably available in an employee handbook. They will include some variation of "Gross Misconduct". Missing work without a valid reason will likely count especially if you lied about your reason. Resigning does not magically protect you from termination.

tl;dr- You were in the wrong here and have no legal recourse.

You are correct that you shouldn't ask your boss for a reference. Depending on the size of the company and its policies, you may be able to get around this by getting a reference from another manager, such as your line manager if you didn't report directly to your boss.

You should probably try to get this question dissociated from your account, since I'm assuming that's your real name there.

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    "Certainly will" is too strong, unless you have a reference to back it up. There's a scale of misconduct, serious misconduct, gross misconduct. The official advice from the government that I linked too lists unauthorised absence from work as simple misconduct; faking being sick probably takes it to "serious", but not necessarily to "gross". – Peter Taylor Dec 9 '19 at 20:34
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    It seems that faking being sick in the UK can rise to the level of gross misconduct, but it is not automatically so. The case law seems to indicate that there needs to be another element of dishonesty involved. Unfortunately for the OP, taking a holiday while purportedly sick is one of the examples given. – Rupert Morrish Dec 9 '19 at 22:56
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    Thanks, I've changed that bit. – Studoku Dec 10 '19 at 14:43
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    In addition to what Peter and Rupert have contributed, the fact that OP did try to take the day off with advance notice, had a good reason to take the day off, and the employer gave no good reason for refusing, all works in OP's favor and suggests "gross misconduct" is an exaggeration. The company had every opportunity to allow the employee to do things the proper way too. – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 18:41
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You admitted to faking a sickness to get a day off. That alone is enough to be subjected to disciplinary action or dismissal - at your boss's discretion. However it seems that you managed to get a resignation letter in before your boss gave you the termination notice, which may put you at an advantage if you decide to fight this. I propose seeking counsel from a lawyer local to your place of residence.

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    Faking sick leave on notice, or without, is cause enough to fire him. Why would it make a difference? – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 9 '19 at 12:51
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    From moral point of view, it doesn't. From legal point of view, it is another story. If this case reaches court, the topic starter may actually win this due to lack of evidence against him - if the boss cannot prove that he lied. – IDDQD Dec 9 '19 at 12:55
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    Got a citation to back it up? – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 9 '19 at 12:55
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    "Innocent until proven guilty in the court of law"? – IDDQD Dec 9 '19 at 12:58
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    That's for criminal law, there is no guilt to assign. And the offence is likely fireable and notice changed nothing. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 9 '19 at 12:59
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In short, yes and yes (though not directly).

First of all, allow me to say that although it does appear as if your boss is not the perfect boss, you are truly being the issue. Forgive me for saying it so directly. Consider your attitude, and pay attention to the wording when reflecting on what you wrote yourself. I've added some emphasis:

Me [and my boss]...

Certainly, it is not all uncommon to say "me and my boss" rather than "my boss and me" in English. In other languages, it is considered outright insulting and obnoxious in a slap-face way -- in English not so much, admittedly. But think about it. Really. Who is to be named first? It's a subtle hint to what may be the issue.

We often argue about the morals and future of the company..."

There we go. Be honest, who is the one entitled to have an opinion about the morals and future of the company? The boss, or you? Sure, a good boss will (may) listen to what his employees think. And failing to do so, he is maybe not the best boss in the world.
However, in reality it's you who is inherently wrong and inherently showing the wrong attitude. The future of your company (which your boss owns, not you) is not yours to decide or argue about. Constructive feedback is acceptable when welcome (but not acceptable when not welcome). Arguments are never acceptable.

Yes, you are allowed to have an opinion, and you may even have freedom of speech in your country. That, however, doesn't automatically mean that you have freedom of speech at work, or that anyone (your boss included) must listen to what you say, or that you even have a word in business decisions.
Similarly, you are for example allowed to freely exercise religion (pray to God or Allah, or whatever you like). But that doesn't mean you are allowed to lecture and convert your coworkers about The One True Belief. You are not allowed to preach at work and tell people that they pray to the wrong thing. It's very much the same thing. There's things that you are generally allowed to believe, or say, or do... but not at work. You are allowed to think that your boss is a complete asshole and that his decisions are utter bullshit, and you can tell your girlfriend at home. But you may not say it at work. You may think that a business decision doesn't make sense, but you are still required to follow it.

The same is true about your boss spending company money for himself. Well yeah, what about it? It's his company, and his money. You do not have a say in it. If you think you do, you must get your perspective right (or else you will have trouble with your next employer, too).

Now, that's a general thing, but now about the actual issue.

About what you've really done wrong, which is why your boss is in fact entitled to fire you and will (most probably) get away with it. Yes, you have rights when being dismissed, but your employer has a valid reason and has acted reasonably, and they have a demonstrable, vital interest in doing the dismissal immediately. Insofar there will likely be not much (if anything) you can do.

This is something that I seem to repeat twice every week to different people: You do not only have rights, you also have obligations!

Being truthful is an obligation. You called in sick when you clearly weren't sick (and you were unwise enough to "announce" it by first asking for a day off because you had tickets, etc etc). This is absolutely, totally, completely, 100% inacceptable.
There's not even much of a way you could fix this mistake, even if you wanted to. Because, well, it's not about taking a day off. It's about betraying your employer's confidence.

This is a huge problem, and it justifies what your boss has done.

Reasoning: If you are fraudulent about being sick, you are probably fraudulent about other things, too. You probably charge overtime hours that you haven't done. Who knows, you might embezzle company money if given the opportunity. You might steal work equipment or money. You might cause damage to the company just because you are being spiteful.
Note that I am not saying you actually did any of the above. But you get the idea. This is serious.

Additionally, you did not comply with the request of confirming that you have received the invite. So, in addition to violating trust, you have also undeniably committed a formal mistake (noncompliance to a direct order). Which is, well, just another nail to your coffin that demostrates your consistent (not exceptional!), misbehaviour. Yep, he lured you into that one, and you fell for it.

Therefore, while your boss cannot (at least not easily) fire you immediately, he can very well fire you within the usual period and at the same time suspend you, and order that you leave his grounds, effective immediately. And he'll get away with it, since you've provided the necessary evidence of persistent, irreconcilable differences.

Which, if that's not the exact wording of your notice already, you will be explained when trying to challenge his decision.

The approach of effectively "firing immediately" is not even unusual, a lot of large corporations do that exact thing (and worse!) when they lay off someone. Security shows up at your cubicle. You, being completely unaware, are handed the notice, and then security leads you out, and that's just it. End of story. Yes, technically you're employed for anther two weeks. In theory.
They're not giving you an opportunity for a little revenge operation. They're not giving you an opportunity to walk out with trade secrets. They're not giving you an opportunity to incite a little rebellion at work. No Sir.

Can your boss deny writing a recommendation letter (or testimonial)? Seeing how you are in UK, yes. You simply do not have a right to receive one.

But even if you were in another country where you have the right of getting a testimonial (e.g. Germany), he could deprive you of that right (and of the other related rights as well) if he wanted to. The reason being that while you have the right (not in UK, mind you!) to receive a testimonial (truthful, and not negative), it is your responsibility to come and get it. There is no obligation to send it to you. See where this is going? If you are not allowed to enter the grounds, how are you going to get your testimonial?
Similarly, the employer is required to write a truthful, non-negative testimonial. But he is not required to write a positive testimonial with the well-known superlative positive clauses. Other employers obviously know that, and a testimonial without said clauses is factually a negative testimonial (without being such).
So, even in countries where you do have a right of testimony, unless your boss is a completely incompetent idiot, this is a fight that you cannot win. You do not want to go that route.

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    Improvement suggestion: Remove the first half of this answer as it is nothing but victim shaming, and it does not even attempt to hide that fact like some of the other answers. Your answer essentially starts right off bullying OP into accepting the false idea that employees should accept bullying from their companies, and you even say that's ok. Even the introduction in this answer is grasping at straws, that because a sentence was begun with the word "me" that OP is at fault. Yes, when someone has been wronged they are going to talk about what happened to "me". – Aaron Dec 10 '19 at 18:50
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    @Aaron: No. This is not "victim shaming". OP did something seriously wrong and has a seriously wrong attitude and needs to learn this and improve, or else OP will lead a very unhappy life with future employers. Feel free to downvote, or even flag the answer, if you think differently. I'll not remove the first half of the answer. – Damon Dec 11 '19 at 13:54
  • @Damon while I agree with your premise, claiming that someone who calls into work sick is also likely to embezzle funds is not reasonable. That's like claiming someone who exceeds the speed limit is likely to rob a bank. – barbecue Dec 11 '19 at 15:26
  • @barbecue: I did not claim that the OP did this. But this is how trust works. If you cannot be trusted on one thing, you will not be trusted on others. I am entitled (legally) to give prescription drugs to people. If I am caught driving drunk, I will be taken away this privilege. Does one thing mean I'm not suited to the other? No. But it doesn't matter. Same is true for e.g. getting a gun license and having been caught on a felony (say, cheating on your tax form?). Does one thing mean you cannot do the other? No. Still, same effect. – Damon Dec 11 '19 at 15:33
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    -1. Far too long and much of the first part dealing with grammar is frankly condescending and completely irrelevant to answering the question. – Time4Tea Dec 11 '19 at 18:22
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Contrary to the other answers, I believe that while morally you're just as much in the wrong as your boss, legally you have the (slightly) stronger standing.

  • Assumption A: Your boss cannot prove that you weren't ill.
  • Assumption B: Your contract doesn't require you to get a doctor's statement on the first day of illness. (many contracts make this like 3 days)
  • Assumption C: You don't have a doctor's paper that you were sick.
  • Assumption D: You otherwise crossed all the t's and dotted alls the i's regarding things such as notification of illness, handing in your resignation in the proper form required, etc.

If my assumptions are correct, your boss knows what you did, but can't prove it. That means he has nothing in his hands that would stand up under scrutiny in regards to wrongful termination.

We already established that you're not the most morally clean character, so if you want to take this to the next level, you can fight him on that, in the hopes of getting your notice pay. A friendly lawyer writing him a clearly worded letter laying out the facts of the case in your benefit and his chances of prevailing in a court of law plus the cost such would incur has a reasonable chance of calling his bluff and making him fold but - he takes expensive holidays several times a month, so the company has money and if what you write about his character is true, he may just fight it out of principle.

In that case, you may be asked to present evidence that you were sick. He will claim you went to the exhibition and the court will ask if you have any evidence that you stayed at home.

In principle, going to an event is not prohibited during sick days, because what is prohibited is activities that interfere with the healing process. But going to the exhibition because you "conveniently" became sick that day smells so much of fake sickness that the judge will almost certainly rule against you.

So it's a toss-up. It's basically a he-says-she-says case and whoever can play the better theatre will probably convince the judge (civil case: preponderance of evidence), and since you'll be the one lying to the court - unless you're a trained liar you have slightly worse chances.

So, do you want to escalate to that level? Probably not.

If I were you, I'd screw the notice pay and instead focus on what matters for your future. Your aim should be to get a review that's good for your career and to be let go in a non-suspicious way. Not sure about the UK in this regard, but in Germany, for example, a leaving day not at the end or middle of the month smells of immediate termination and will be noticed by future employers.

So you or your lawyer friend might want to press for that instead. Lay out the facts that you could fight this and probably prevail, but that due to the cost and effort involved you're ready to let it go provided that a compromise involving an (on paper) friendly termination and a positive review can be found.

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    "Assumption A: Your boss cannot prove that you weren't ill.". Firstly, you're misapplying the idea of "innocent until proven guilty". Civil cases work on the balance of probability and, even without proof from either side and even if OP can keep their story straight, a tribunal is still likely to side with the employer. More likely, since OP was dumb enough to post this under what appeared to be their real name (even if it has now been changed) with more than enough identifying details and attended an event at another location that their boss knew about, finding proof would not be difficult. – Studoku Dec 10 '19 at 15:27
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    I don't confuse them, in fact I a bit later mention civil case. Maybe "prove" is too strong, but unless OP made some serious mistake, the boss has nothing in his hands except his assumption of what OP did. And I doubt he'll be able to, say, subpoena the video surveillance footage from the exhibition. – Tom Dec 10 '19 at 21:50
  • There is no morality in business. You cannot eat the moral high ground – Old_Lamplighter Dec 17 '19 at 14:11
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Contrary to what many of the answers have said and your own suspicions, you probably haven't been fired. It's likely your contract has been terminated by mutual consent.

In giving notice you have requested a termination of contract and as you say

I stated that I was happy to work my 2 week notice period

Your employer has stated that that will not be necessary and you're free to go now. It may be that your wording was loose in your letter of notice and left you open to this, as opposed to stating two weeks notice and a final working date.

2 weeks is an unusual notice period in the UK so I'm guessing you weren't on a normal contract, were you still on probation? Either way there's clearly a breakdown of trust between you and your employer and as such your request for termination has been accepted.

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In the UK, you can't get fired for giving notice. Giving notice is not a reason to get fired. But if you give more notice than legally required, your company could turn around and give you only the legally required notice. They would still need a reason for this.

However, if your company had a good reason to fire you on the spot, or you create such a reason during your notice period, then the fact that you gave notice isn't protecting you.

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