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Are employers in the UK allowed to fire you as soon as you hand your notice in, or would they have to continue to pay you until your notice period ends?

closed as off-topic by S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica, alroc, gnat, Jim G., Dawny33 Jan 22 '16 at 17:45

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    I'd say the notice period works both ways, you need to stay and the employer needs to pay you. If the employer could break that, that would make the notice period pointless. I'm not a lawyer though... – Paul Hiemstra Jan 22 '16 at 13:16
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    That was my understanding, but I must wanted to confirm. – Terry Jan 22 '16 at 13:16
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    To be absolutely sure, try and fine information on it on the website of the UK government, or consult a lawyer. – Paul Hiemstra Jan 22 '16 at 13:18
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    I believe they can either negotiate with you to shorten the notice period, or if they want you to stop turning up from the day you hand in the notice, they'll put you on Gardening leave for the duration of your notice. You'll get paid but you won't come in to the office. Firing you would probably constitute unfair dismissal. – Kialandei Jan 22 '16 at 13:35
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    You can certainly be immediately told you're no longer welcome, escorted off the premises, and told not to come back or you'll be charged wit =h trespassing, even if they did have to continue to cover your salary and benefits until the notice period ended. – keshlam Jan 23 '16 at 14:58
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Can you be let go for handing in your notice?

No, unless the company can claim a summary dismissal for other reasons, which usually requires evidence of gross misconduct.

Firing, dismissing or sacking an employee in the UK requires to employer to specify valid reasons for the dismissal to be considered "fair". You have a legal right to request those reasons in writing.

In fact, firing someone for handing in their resignation and giving a correct notice period is explicitly mentioned as situation where the dismissal is likely unfair.

The summary below reproduces the UK Goverment's guidelines on an Employee's Rights during a Dismissal (printable version). What you can do if you think you've been unfairly dismissed is covered in the 4th section. See also this giant Wikipedia page on Unfair dismissal

Before making a claim to an employment tribunal I would suggest researching the pros and cons of doing so and talking to a lawyer, union representative or employment law expert about your situation. Acas seems like a semi-governmental organization for mediating or preventing these kinds of disputes and have a helpline.


Disclaimer: this post does not constitute legal advice and is only intended to summarise the UK Government's official guidelines on dismissing staff and an employee's rights when dismissed. I only offer a layman's interpretation of these rights in a theoretical case where an employer intends to dismiss an employee for resigning.


Dismissal: your rights

The page on "Dismissing staff" (printable version) has the same information but approaches a dismissal from the point of view of the employer.

In the interest of readability I chose not to use quote blocks but none of the text below is mine. The link has better formatting and should remain up-to-date longer so makes for better reading. The below is only reproduced to give a complete overview and protect against link rot.


1. Overview

Dismissal is when your employer ends your employment - they don’t always have to give you notice.

If you’re dismissed, your employer must show they’ve:

  • a valid reason that they can justify
  • acted reasonably in the circumstances

They must also:

  • be consistent - eg not dismiss you for doing something that they let other employees do
  • have investigated the situation fully before dismissing you - eg if a complaint was made about you

If you’re a part-time or fixed-term worker, you can’t be treated less favourably than a full-time or permanent employee.

Notice period

You must be given at least the notice stated in your contract or the statutory minimum notice period, whichever is longer.

There are some situations where you can be dismissed immediately - eg for violence.

Getting your dismissal in writing

You have the right to ask for a written statement from your employer giving the reasons why you’ve been dismissed if you’re an employee and have completed 2 years’ service (1 year if you started before 6 April 2012).

Your employer must supply the statement within 14 days of you asking for it.

Your employer must give you a written statement if you’re dismissed while you are on Statutory Maternity Leave. You get this:

  • even if you’ve not asked for one
  • regardless of how long you’ve worked for your employer

Speak to your employer or check your employment status if you’re unsure of your employment status.


2. Reasons you can be dismissed

There are some situations when your employer can dismiss you fairly.

Not being able to do your job properly

You may not be able to do your job properly if, for example, you:

  • haven’t been able to keep up with important changes to your job - eg a new computer system
  • can’t get along with your colleagues

Before taking any action, your employer should:

  • follow disciplinary procedures - eg warn you that your work isn’t satisfactory
  • give you a chance to improve - eg by training you

Illness

You can be dismissed if you have a persistent or long-term illness that makes it impossible for you to do your job.

Before taking any action, your employer should:

  • look for ways to support you - eg considering whether the job itself is making you sick and needs changing
  • give you reasonable time to recover from your illness

If you have a disability (which may include long-term illness), your employer has a legal duty to support disability in the workplace.

Dismissal because of a disability may be unlawful discrimination.

Redundancy

Redundancy is a form of dismissal and is fair in most cases.

If the reason you are selected for redundancy is unfair then you will have been unfairly dismissed.

Summary dismissal

You can be dismissed for ‘gross misconduct’ without your employer going through the normal disciplinary procedures. This can happen if, for example, you’re violent towards a colleague, customer or property.

Your employer should always investigate the circumstances before making a dismissal, even in possible gross misconduct cases.

A ‘statutory restriction’

You can be dismissed if continuing to employ you would break the law - eg if you’re a driver in a lorry firm and you lose your driving licence.

It’s impossible to carry on employing you

If it’s impossible to carry on employing you, it’s likely to be fair. For example, if a factory burns down and it’s no longer possible to employ anyone.

A ‘substantial reason’

You may be dismissed fairly if, for example:

  • you unreasonably refuse to accept a company reorganisation that changes your employment terms
  • you’re sent to prison

3. Unfair and constructive dismissal

In certain situations, you may be able to take legal action if you’re dismissed.

Unfair dismissal

Your dismissal could be unfair if your employer doesn’t:

  • have a good reason for dismissing you
  • follow the company’s formal disciplinary or dismissal process (or the statutory minimum dismissal procedure in Northern Ireland)

Situations when your dismissal is likely to be unfair include if you:

  • asked for flexible working
  • refused to give up your working time rights - eg to take rest breaks
  • resigned and gave the correct notice period
  • joined a trade union
  • took part in legal industrial action that lasted 12 weeks or less
  • needed time off for jury service
  • applied for maternity, paternity and adoption leave
  • were on any maternity, paternity and adoption leave you’re entitled to
  • tried to enforce your right to receive Working Tax Credits
  • exposed wrongdoing in the workplace (whistleblowing)
  • were forced to retire (known as ‘compulsory retirement’)

Compulsory retirement is not allowed unless your employer can objectively justify it, but you can challenge it at an employment tribunal.

Constructive dismissal

Constructive dismissal is when you’re forced to leave your job against your will because of your employer’s conduct.

The reasons you leave your job must be serious, for example, they:

  • don’t pay you or suddenly demote you for no reason
  • force you to accept unreasonable changes to how you work - eg tell you to work night shifts when your contract is only for day work
  • let other employees harass or bully you

Your employer’s breach of contract may be one serious incident or a series of incidents that are serious when taken together.

You should try and sort any issues out by speaking to your employer to solve the dispute.

If you do have a case for constructive dismissal, you should leave your job immediately - your employer may argue that, by staying, you accepted the conduct or treatment.


4. What to do if you're dismissed

If you’re threatened with dismissal (or are dismissed) you can get help from a third party to solve the issue by mediation, conciliation and arbitration.

You can also speak to your union representative if you’re a member of a trade union.

Employment tribunals

If you’ve been unable to solve a problem between you and your employer, you can normally go to an employment tribunal.

In Northern Ireland, you can go to an industrial tribunal.

Qualifying period to claim unfair dismissal

You must have worked for your employer for a minimum period before you qualify for the right to claim unfair dismissal at a tribunal. If you’re classed as an employee and started your job:

  • on or after 6 April 2012 - the qualifying period is normally 2 years
  • before 6 April 2012 - the qualifying period is normally 1 year

In Northern Ireland, the qualifying period is still normally 1 year.

There is no qualifying period if you’ve been dismissed from 25 June 2013 because of your political opinions or affiliation. You’ll automatically have the right to go to an employment tribunal.

In unfair dismissal claims you must make the claim to a tribunal within 3 months of being dismissed.

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    Note that the vast majority of this applies only if you've been employed for two years; less than that, and your employment can be ended without a reason being given. – Philip Kendall Jan 22 '16 at 17:31
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    Hmm, as comprehensive as Lilienthal's answer is, it looks a lot like legal advice which isn't what we give, and as we can see from Philip Kendall's comment it isn't completely accurate in some cases, so I'd advise against following it, and get a real qualified answer from the Citizen's Advice. – The Wandering Dev Manager Jan 22 '16 at 18:46
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    @TheWanderingDevManager Looks like I lost my disclaimer while editing the post, added back in. This is a straight up reproduction from the Gov website based on a simple interpretation and is not situation-specific legal advice. – Lilienthal Jan 23 '16 at 13:15
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I won't question Lilienthal's knowledge of the law, however I'd like to point something out:

When you hand in your notice, and especially if you're working with sensitive information, the company may choose to have you removed from the premises and bar your access to said data immediately.

Quite simply put, once you hand in your notice some companies consider you instantly unworthy of their trust.

In this situation would they still compensate you for the two weeks that you are officially an employee, even though you're not actually working?

Would they simply decide to cut you off right there and then?

I suspect this will greatly depend on the culture of the company, the industry they're in, as well as your own job, responsibilities, and the law pertinent to your situation.

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    That is known as garden leave – Terry Jan 22 '16 at 14:06
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    In the UK, they must pay you and you are still an employee even though you are no longer actually carrying out any work. In general you won't be able to work for anyone else during this period, which is as @Terry says called "garden leave". – Alfred Armstrong Jan 22 '16 at 14:22

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