When does notice of termination take effect for contractual purposes?

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In the recent case of Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Trust v Haywood, the Court of Appeal has confirmed that, in the absence of an express contractual term specifying when notice of termination takes effect, it will take effect when it is actually received by the employee. 

Facts
Mrs Haywood was employed as an associate director by Newcastle Primary Care NHS Trust.

On 1 April 2011, her contract of employment was transferred to another NHS Trust and she was subsequently informed by letter that she was at risk of redundancy.

Mrs Haywood was due to turn 50 on 20 July 2011. Redundancy after her 50th birthday would have entitled her to a considerably more generous pension than redundancy beforehand.    

Mrs Haywood attended a redundancy consultation meeting on 13 April 2011, where no decision as to the future of her employment was made. She flew to Egypt on 19 April and arrived back home on 27 April 2011. Her employer was aware of this. On 20 April 2011, while Mrs Haywood was still in Egypt, her employer wrote confirming her redundancy and purporting to terminate her employment on 12 weeks’ notice, to end on 15 July 2011, prior to her 50th birthday. This notice was sent by recorded delivery.  Mrs Haywood did not receive the notice until after her return from holiday on 27 April 2011.

Decision
The Court of Appeal considered if notice of termination took effect on the date on which it was sent by the employer (20 April 2011), when the letter was received at Mrs Haywood’s home address or when she read the letter on 27 April 2011.  

The Court held that the contractual notice of termination took effect when Mrs Haywood took personal delivery of the written notice. 

Comment
Employment contracts should ideally include express clauses governing when any notice given under that contract is deemed to be received. In any event, if employers wish to have some certainty, they should ensure that any notice of termination is delivered personally to the employee.  

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Frances Rollin

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