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Losing your job

Losing your job can be hard, but things will be easier if you know your rights should the worst happen. Read on to find out more.

Lots of people lose a job for various reasons during their working lives so, even though it might come as a shock, remember that you’re not the first person this has happened to and that everyone gets through it. You also need to remember that your employer can’t just throw you out of your job without going through a proper process first.

Why could you lose your job?

  • Being made redundant is when your employer can’t afford to keep you in your job, because they need to save money.
  • Being fired is when your employer asks you to leave because of bad behaviour like stealing or fighting at work, or because they think you’re not up to the job.

What happens then?

If you’re being made redundant, your employer will need to have a meeting with you to explain why they are making you redundant, put it in writing and give you a notice period. How long this is will depend on how long you have worked for the company, but is normally a week for each year you’ve been employed. They will also offer you redundancy pay, which is normally half a week’s pay for every year you’ve worked under the age of 22, and a week’s pay for every year over 22.

They should also offer you another job if there is one available, or a reasonable amount of time off to search for another one if not. These rules only apply to people who have a contract though, so if you work on a casual basis or are self-employed you won’t get anything.

If you’ve been fired, your employer still needs to have a meeting with you and give you the reasons for your dismissal in writing if you request it. However, if you’re being fired for disciplinary reasons, they do not have to give you notice or redundancy pay.

What can I do about it?

Employers need to choose who they make redundant fairly and make their reasons clear. For example it’s common to use ‘last one in first one out’ – meaning that you’re more likely to lose your job if you’ve only been there a short amount of time. However, employers can’t select you for redundancy based on things like your age, race or gender.

If you’ve been fired, the company needs to prove that you have done what you’ve been accused of, and that firing you is a reasonable response. If you’re being fired because you’re having trouble doing your job, or have been ill for a long time, then they need to show they’ve offered you extra training or support first.

However, if you think they have acted unfairly you might be able to take them to an employment tribunal, which is a legal way of getting your rights. In most cases you will have to make your claim within three months of being told you’re being made redundant or fired, and will have had to have worked for the company for at least a year.

After you leave

If your employer has acted fairly, you’ll have no choice but to leave. Make sure your employer gives you a P45 form to show you’ve left work, which you need to keep and give to your next employer.

It’s best to keep on good terms with your former employer if possible, as you may need them to write you a reference for another job. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem if you’ve been made redundant through no fault of your own, but if you’ve been fired your former employer can mention you were disciplined in your reference.

Of course, losing your job doesn’t mean you’ll never get another one. If you are asked about being made redundant in your next job interview, don’t try and hide it, but don’t get angry and start slagging off your former boss. Talk about what you learned from your last job and how you could use it in this new one instead. 

And remember that you might also qualify for Jobseeker's Allowance while you're looking for another job.

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