What to do if you’re sacked from your job

Getting sacked from your job can really knock your confidence and cause you to question everything about your existence. But we promise it won’t last forever. So once the initial shock has worn off, here’s how to deal with being fired; including our advice for getting a new job after being sacked.

A young woman just got sacked from work. This is a wide-angle image.

Have you been unfairly dismissed?

Firstly, ask yourself if you’ve been fired legally. Unfair dismissal of an employee includes if you’re sacked for:

If any of these apply to you and you want to make a complaint, you’re gonna have to act quickly. There’s a three-month time limit for taking your employer to an employment tribunal. But before you do anything, you should read our article on unfair dismissal from work here.

On the other hand, if you’ve done any of the following, you might not have grounds for complaint. And you may even have to undergo some disciplinary procedures:

  • Broken your work’s rules of conduct
  • Stolen things from the company
  • Lied outrageously on your CV
  • Haven’t been doing your job properly

Can you get sacked for being off sick?

Unfortunately, in some circumstances you can get sacked for being off sick. For example, if you have a long term illness that stops you from returning to work and doing your job properly, your employer can fire you. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check the sickness policy in your contract of employment before you start a new job

The good news is that, if you have a long term sickness, they can’t just fire you will nilly . If you’re fired for being off sick, certain conditions have to be met first, otherwise it could be considered unfair dismissal. First, your employer must have looked into ways of supporting you, such as considering whether what you’re being asked to do is making you ill. You should’ve also been given ‘reasonable’ time off work or a sickness absence to recover. 

Plus, if you have a disability or a long-term illness that makes it difficult to work your employer is legally obligated to support you to do your job. In cases where they don’t, they’re potentially liable for disability discrimination. Regardless of the reasons for your situation, it’s a good idea to get some medical evidence that you’re too ill to work. We’d recommend getting a fit note which you can find out more about here. Alternatively, you can check out our article on sick pay here for more information.

What should I do if I’ve been sacked from my job?

Once your notice period is over, or even before, you can ask for a written explanation. In fact, you’re legally entitled to a written statement explaining why you’ve been sacked under certain circumstances. These include if you’ve worked there for at least a year, you’re under a fixed-term contract that’s expired, or you’ve been dismissed while pregnant or on maternity or adoption leave.

You can also try to come to an agreement with your employer. Say, if you promise to improve your performance then they can give you another chance. And if you belong to a union, explain your situation since they’ll probably be able to help out. And they might even be able to negotiate on your behalf.

If none of these seem to be working, here’s what you should do.

  • Try groveling (but not in a desperate kind of way). Admit that you made mistakes and learn from the experience.
  • Sign on as unemployed. Get down to the Jobcentre as soon as possible and register your status of unemployment.
  • Keep your P45. Your next employer will need it to sort your pay and tax.
  • Don’t, however upset you are, seek revenge. Trust us, it’ll just backfire. Remember, you might need a reference.

Getting a new job after being sacked

Should I lie?

Getting a new job after being sacked is scary. So much so that it’s tempting to lie about your recent letdown when you’re filling in application forms. But it’s not wise. Outright lies are usually uncovered. Not to mention, loads of employers are now using checking agencies to make sure that applicants are not being dishonest. Even if it’s just about their email address. You might be able to fool your potential employer, but can you fool someone whose job it is to figure out your deepest, darkest secrets?

How can I phrase that I got fired?

Luckily, you don’t have to put the reason you left your last job on your CV. Not-so-luckily, it’s likely to come up at an interview anyways. Sometimes you can get away with saying that you had a ‘difference of opinion’ and leave it at that. But it truly depends on the situation. And whatever you do, just make sure to place more emphasis on your achievements and what you learned from the job than your reason for leaving.

What about getting a reference after being fired?

If your ex-employer writes you a reference they’re allowed to include accurate information, e.g. if you were disciplined while working for them. They can also choose to give a reference that only confirms your dates of employment. It’s entirely up to them. You might be happy to know (or maybe not) that your new employer can show you a copy of the reference. In fact, they have to supply it under data protection law.

Ask yourself why you lost your job

If you really hated the line of work you were in, you might wanna change course. Consider this as an opportunity to look around for something you might enjoy more. Getting sacked from your job might seem like a catastrophe in the short term, but it’s usually exactly the intervention that people need before they wind up getting stuck in a job that they hate. So, in the long run, you may find things turn out for the best.

Next Steps

  • Acas offers free advice about everything to do with employment law. 0300 123 1100
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.


leaving work

By Nishika Melwani

Updated on 09-Jun-2022