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Termination of Employment: When does notice take effect?

Notice of termination started to run when the termination letter had come to the attention of the employee and she had actually read the termination letter ruled the Supreme Court in Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood

Ms Haywood was informed that she would be at risk of redundancy in April 2011. The significance of when Ms Haywood’s employment was terminated was important due to the fact that Ms Haywood turned 50 on 20 July 2011. If her employment terminated before this date then she would have been entitled to a lower pension compared to what she would receive if her employment terminated after her 50th birthday. Ms Haywood’s contract of employment stated she would be entitled to 12 weeks’ notice to end her employment however nothing was set out in respect of how notice was deemed given.

Ms Haywood went away on holiday. During this time, her employer posted a letter giving her notice of termination of employment. The question was whether notice started to run from:

  • When the letter would have been delivered in the ordinary course of post;
  • The date when it was in fact delivered to Ms Haywood’s address; or
  • When the letter came to Ms Haywood’s attention and she had read the letter.

The Employer sent one letter by recorded delivery, a second letter by ordinary post and a final letter was emailed to Ms Haywood’s husband’s email address. Ms Haywood read the letter which was sent by recorded delivery when she returned from holiday.

The Supreme Court decided by a majority that the Employer’s appeal should be dismissed as the approach taken by the lower courts and tribunals should not be disturbed as there was no good reason to. Therefore, notice was only deemed effective when Ms Haywood actually read the letter or when she had a reasonable opportunity to read the letter, which was not until 27 April therefore Ms Haywood was entitled to a higher pension.

Employers should as a result of this consider including in employment contracts an express term clearly stating when notice is deemed to be received and effected. The more practical solution, however, would be to communicate notice in person so that employees are physically handed notice to terminate employment thereby removing any ambiguity.

If you would like to speak to one of our employment lawyers about any of the information above, they can be contacted on 0113 849 4000 or email employment@schofieldsweeney.co.uk.

About the Author

Simon Shepherd

Partner

As Partner and Head of the Employment department Simon undertakes all types of employment work.…

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