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