By Osborne & Wise
The Supreme Court has ruled that notice of dismissal by post starts to run when the letter comes to the attention of the employee and they have either read it or had a reasonable opportunity to do so.
In Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood , Ms Haywood was told that her employment was at risk of redundancy. She was entitled to 12 weeks’ notice of termination from her employer. If her employment ended on or after her 50th birthday (on 20 July 2011), she would have been entitled to a more generous pension entitlement. On 19 April 2011, Ms Haywood went on holiday. On 20 April, her employer sent her a letter terminating her employment. Ms Haywood did not read this letter until 27 April.
The Supreme Court held that given that Ms Haywood’s employment contract did not expressly state when her 12 week notice period was deemed to take effect, her notice period did not start to run until she read the letter on 27 April, and she was therefore entitled to the higher pension.
Usually, the terms of the employment contract will state that written notice of termination is required. The safest approach is for an employer to give notice of termination in person, followed by a letter, delivered by hand, confirming the position. However, this will not always be possible and consideration should be given to including an express contractual provision stating when notice is deemed to be effective. This will then avoid any ambiguity concerning their dismissal date and possible increased expense for an employer, say if it wishes to avoid an employee being entitled to an enhanced payment if still employed on a specific date.