Words in the News


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter

One of the livelier moments in the Conservative Party conference, which has just taken place in Manchester, was when a prankster managed to get close enough to the Prime Minister to hand her a fake P45. Simon Brodkin, who has made something of a career of pranking public figures from Sepp Blatter to Donald Trump, was briefly arrested for breach of the peace but then released without charge. While many will have wondered how security at a party conference could be so lax that a known prankster was able to get accreditation and then get close enough to Theresa May to hand her the document, others will have asked themselves what the significance of the document was.

A P45 is simply a document provided by a company that shows you have stopped working for them and how much tax you have paid. Inevitably, though, it has come to be used as shorthand for being sacked, as in the following examples:

“You’re more likely to get your P45 than a pay rise at the moment.”

“The City manager has just been given his P45 for finishing 2nd.”

“The boss may laugh in my face and hand me my P45.”

So what Mr Brodkin was doing with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer was telling the PM it was time to find another job. The fact that he claimed to be acting on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, who is widely believed to fancy her job for himself, must have made it sting slightly more.

The P45 is a British document; the closest American equivalent is a pink slip, which can also be used as a verb.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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