Can you be sacked for looking for another job?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009 - career change, career transition, Disciplinary Procedure, job hunting, job search, Legal, regulation, tutorial


Sacked Job Search

giant stack of resumes
Creative Commons License photo credit: woodleywonderworks

Rob asks: Can you be sacked for looking for another job? A friend of mine works nights and wants to go onto days as his wife is pregnant. His work wants him on nights and wont change anything for him so he has started to look for another job. His boss noticed his cv posted on a job site and hauled him into the office and has threatened to ‘let him go’ as he is “not 100% committed to his job.” I cannot believe this is legal, does anyone know the law on this? Quoting the actual law would be great but any help would be good.

In answer:
Yes, in a majority of cases, sacking someone for looking for work would be illegal. There as always are some exceptions – safety issues, retained Government work, military, etc – but if a case were brought to court where by it was the reason stated or could be proved to be the underlying case that they were sacked for looking for other work, then yes it would be illegal.

Under the European Human Rights directive, and the UK Employment Laws brought in under Maggie Thatcher to curtail the union powers, freedom of the worker is sacrosanct in basic employment rights. Employers can change secondary rights – such as notice periods, and timings of wage payment – but primary rights are non-negotiable and written in law. In your friends case, the primary right is the choice to leave the work of the employer, while the secondary right which will be in his contract of employment is the notice period.

But here’s the problem, although it is quite minor compared to the employers potential liability. Posting your CV openly on a common jobs board is frankly daft. They all have the option to withhold your CV from common view, and just to let it be viewed by employers when you select. Openly posting your CV on a jobs board is almost as good as posting daft remarks about your employer on Facebook – for which people have been sacked.

The employers side though is more problematic. If your friend has written to his employer stating he wants to under take day time work, then under UK Employment Law the employer has to give that due consideration, and reply in writing as to why he can’t presently allow that. UK law is not yet up to European law on maternity and partner rights, but if he were sat in mainland Europe the employer would need to find a reason to refuse his request based on a more limited set of options. If your friend has put his request in writing, been refused, been found looking for work and hence sacked – then that’s a pretty good case for constructive dismissal.

Get your friend to remove his CV from the jobs board. Then make sure he has put in writing again his request for moving to day work in light of his wife’s pregnancy and increased needs for support during their child’s early months. A reasonable employer would debate a change and try to agree something – an unreasonable employer would sack him first, and consult his lawyer second.

Now the cat is out of the bag due to your friends poor tactical choice, he needs to make sure that the legal side of offering reasonable consideration is covered, before any potential court case.

Good Luck!

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One Response to “Can you be sacked for looking for another job?”

  1. TG Says:

    I do wonder why the employer was looking on the jobs board, since he was obviously looking for candidates doing the same work this guy does. Perhaps he was recruiting someone to work days? It cuts both ways- if they find you, you know they were looking for someone.

    In answer:
    Great point! Employers looking for jobs when they refuse you options to move around. UK & EU Employment Law is certainly a minefield for the employer with an agenda!

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