Leaving A Job: Why, How & The Aftermath

Leaving a job can often be a bittersweet experience, particularly if you’ve been there a long time and have colleagues who are also friends.

With any luck, your time with the company will have been enjoyable and productive and, will end with cake, champagne and your colleagues wishing you well.  

Unfortunately, there may be times when your time with a company will end on a sour note where you are asked to leave. This could be for a number of reasons including redundancy, restructuring or your performance or behaviour is judged unsatisfactory.

Redundancy / Restructuring

Redundancy or restructuring generally occurs when a company is going through tough times or some form of transition.  

Being made redundant usually comes as no shock to those concerned as rumours will usually be rife within a company for months beforehand.  Depending on how long you’ve been with the company, you may receive a severance payment and may also be able to work an agreed amount of notice.


When starting a new job, your permanent contract will usually be subject to a trial period which is commonly known as a probation period and will generally be between three and six months.

This is a period of time for both the employer and employee to evaluate the suitability of the candidate for the position.  During the probation period, the employer can terminate employment at any time without giving the employee notice or any severance payment.

Although the candidate can ask for feedback, the company is not obliged to provide this.  Reasons for termination during the probation period can range from lack of skills or knowledge, poor time-keeping or the candidate just not fitting in with the company or department. Although it may be disappointing to not be made a permanent employee, termination during the probation period means that at least the candidate has not yet invested a huge amount of time and commitment to the job.

You’re fired

It may be amusing hearing those words from Lord Alan Sugar but, in reality, being fired from a job can be humiliating and demoralising as well as financially devastating.  Every company has its own set of rules and regulations but, the common reasons for somebody being fired include bad time-keeping, low performance and gross misconduct.

With issues such as time-keeping, the company is obliged to issue warnings to the employee before terminating employment.  In most cases, an employee will receive verbal warnings, followed by written warnings, after which they may be fired. In cases of gross misconduct however, (theft, fraud, behaviour which potentially causes harm to the company or other employees), dismissal can be instant.

On appeal

If you feel that you have been dismissed wrongly or unfairly, you will usually have the right to appeal that decision.  Once you have filed your appeal, a meeting will usually be held between yourself (along with your chosen representative) and the HR Department and the Manager involved.

This meeting will result in either your dismissal being withheld or you being reinstated, although it is rare for the latter to be the case. If your appeal fails and you still feel that you were dismissed unfairly, you may then have the option to take the company to court on a wrongful dismissal charge.

Referencing a dismissal

If you have been fired from a job, once you’ve allowed yourself some recovery time, you will probably need to seek new employment.  Although a potential new employer might be impressed by your CV and your appearance at the interview stage, securing a new position often hinges on a reference from your previous employer.

Under British law, a company is prohibited from writing a negative reference for a previous employee but, they do have the right to refuse to issue a reference – which to a new employer, is a red flag.  Although it’s not ideal, if you have been fired and the company has refused a reference, don’t panic. Most HR Departments are aware that the world of employment involves many different people and many different circumstances.  

On being fired, it’s worth asking if the company will be prepared to provide a reference.  If the answer is no, this is something that you can discuss with a potential employer either after a second interview or when told that they will be seeking references.  


  • Ask to speak with the HR Manager and explain clearly and calmly why you are unlikely to receive a reference from that particular company.
  • Avoid bad-mouthing your ex-boss or company or complaining about your treatment.
  • If applicable, make the HR Manager aware of any appeals or legal action you have undertaken.
  • Explain why the problems you encountered in your last job should not be a barrier to your succeeding in this new position.
  • Explain that you are open to an extended probationary period or other safety measures.

Whatever the circumstances, leaving a job can be a time of insecurity and it’s important that you know your rights and obligations at every stage.

Inspiring Interns is a recruitment agency specialising in all the internships and graduate jobs London has to offer