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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:
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.