If a company decides you are unable to do the job they employed you for, they may dismiss you.  This is also called being ‘fired’, ‘given the sack’, being ‘dismissed’ or ‘having your employment terminated’.  Losing your job can be a big shock and have an emotional as well as financial impact. You should get support from family, friends, your GP or the Samaritans if you are struggling to cope as a result.

You can contact the Samaritans by:

  • Phone free (any time, day or night) on 116 123
  • Email (response time up to 24 hrs) [email protected]
  • In person (opening hours vary)

If you lose your job, you will have less money for a while - you may need to cut back on any non-essential spending until you have more money coming in again

Check that you are being paid all of the money that you are entitled to including:

  • Wages or salary
  • Holiday pay for holiday you haven’t taken
  • ‘Pay in lieu of notice’ if you are not working your notice out
  • Any bonus, commission or expenses you are entitled to

The best way to move on from losing your job is to get another one as soon as possible. Whilst you are looking, you will need to check what benefits and tax credits you are entitled to. The Money Advice Service can provide further information.

If you were sacked it is likely that you were not happy in the job, so it can be a blessing in disguise. Enjoy the relief of knowing you won’t have to do it anymore.  Take time to look at the situation and work out what did not work for you, so that you can learn from the experience. Be honest with yourself and think about how much of it was your responsibility and work out what you would do differently next time.

You will need to explain what happened on your next job application. Describe what happened as straightforwardly as you can without blaming your previous employer. Show how this new opportunity is different and what you learned through the experience.

Was it an unfair dismissal?

An employer is allowed to dismiss people, but if they do it unfairly, you can challenge that dismissal

You must challenge the decision within 3 months. To find out if it qualifies as an ‘unfair dismissal’ you will need to check:

  • Your employment status – you will need to be an employee of the company. You are not an employee if you are employed by an agency or are self employed for example.
  • Whether you have been employed by them for 2 years or more
  • If the law says that the reason for your dismissal was unfair.

If your dismissal was unfair, most people can take your employer to an employment tribunal. (unless you are in the armed forces, police, working overseas for a foreign government or are a share fisherperson). If you think this may apply to you, seek specialist employment law advice, or consult the Citizens Advice service. 

Losing your job can be ‘automatically unfair’ if you have been dismissed BECAUSE you are:

  • are pregnant or on maternity leave
  • have asked for your legal rights at work, e.g. to be paid minimum wage
  • took action about a health and safety issue
  • work in a shop or a betting shop and refused to work on a Sunday
  • are a trade union member and took part in trade union activities including official industrial action or you were acting as an employee representative
  • have reported your employer for wrongdoing, which is called whistleblowing

 Or if you were discriminated against, and were dismissed BECAUSE you are:

  • disabled
  • pregnant or on maternity leave
  • from a particular race, ethnicity or country
  • married or in a civil partnership
  • a man or a woman
  • lesbian, gay, bisexual
  • transgender
  • have a particular religion or set of beliefs
  • older or younger than the people you work with

You can be dismissed legally if you are in any of the categories above, but it cannot be the reason WHY you were dismissed.  

You would have to show how you have been treated differently to other employees in similar situations, that the employer has tried to help you overcome any issues and if they have followed a fair process in deciding to terminate your employment.

Your local Citizens Advice may be able to advise if you have a legal claim. 

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 – e.g. 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 part of a series of incidents that are serious when taken together.

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

You should not stay if it continues, as you may be seen to have accepted the treatment. Proving constructive dismissal is not easy and not many claims are successful, so you should seek advice before acting.