Notice of termination only effective when personally received by employee

April 2017

By Eliza Nash of Osborne & Wise

In Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood, the Court of Appeal had to consider when notice of termination was effective in the absence of a contractual provision covering the point.  Ms Haywood was placed at risk of redundancy.  On 19 April 2011, she went on holiday, returning on 27 April.  On 20 April, the trust sent three letters (by recorded delivery, ordinary post and email to her husband’s email address),  confirming the redundancy and purporting to terminate her employment with 12 weeks’ notice, to terminate on 15 July 2011. The timing of the notice was crucial as Ms Hayward was 50 on 20 July 2011 and redundancy after her 50th birthday would entitle her to a significantly more generous pension. She returned home from Egypt on 27 April, and read the letter that day.  

The Court of Appeal held that Ms Hayward had still been employed on her 50th birthday.  In the absence of an express contractual term specifying when a notice of termination is effective, the notice takes effect from the date it is received by the employee in the sense of them having personally taken delivery of the letter containing it.  Here this was 27 April 2011, upon Ms Haywood’s return from holiday. The notice sent by email was not effective for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it was sent to Ms Haywood’s husband’s email address.

There will be occasions, as in this case, when the date of termination is of particular importance. Employers wanting certainty as to the termination date for contractual purposes should ensure that the employment contract specifies when notice is deemed to be given or, if it does not, that they hand over notice in person to the individual. Please speak with one of our team for further advice on this issue.