The importance of communicating dismissal

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In Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood, the Court of Appeal has considered when notice of termination will be effective if an employment contract is silent on when it will be deemed to be given.

The Court found, by a majority, that the notice will be effective upon actual receipt, in line with previous cases on this point.

In this case, Mrs Haywood was put at risk of redundancy in April 2011. She went on holiday on 19 April and her employer sent notice of termination of her employment by recorded delivery and email to her husband’s email account on 20 April. Regardless of this, it was found that the notice of termination was only effective when it was actually received by Mrs Haywood (i.e. on 27 April when she returned from holiday and read the notice).

The significance here was that Mrs Haywood was entitled to 12 weeks’ notice and turned 50 on 20 July 2011. Her redundancy payment following her 50th birthday was significantly enhanced, therefore, her employer was seeking to argue that the notice had been effective from its delivery on 20 April, rather than from receipt on 27 April. Mrs Haywood was successful in her claim that notice had been served on 27 April and therefore termination of her employment was effective from 27 July (following her 50th birthday).

The case serves as a reminder about the importance of ensuring notice is effectively communicated to employees, particularly where a significant time limit, such as the 2 year limit for unfair dismissal claims is near.

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