Notice takes effect when actually received by the employee

13.07.2017

The Court of Appeal has held in Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust -v- Haywood 2017 that where an employment contract is silent on when notice is deemed to be given, notice of termination takes effect on actual receipt by the employee (not on delivery, or any deemed receipt).
The Trust sent a letter to Ms Haywood, dismissing her, on 20 April. Ms Haywood had gone away on holiday on 19 April (which the Trust was aware of). Consequently she did not receive the letter dismissing her until she returned home on 27 April. As it had been sent by recorded delivery, there was evidence that the letter was delivered prior to 27 April. The exact date notice was given was key, as it affected whether or not Ms Haywood’s employment would terminate before or after her 50th birthday (if after, she would be entitled to a considerably more generous pension).
The judges in the Court of Appeal disagreed in their reasoning, but held that notice was given on 27 April, when Ms Haywood actually received the letter (meaning that the dismissal took effect after her birthday and she was entitled to the more generous pension). The contract did not contain an express contractual term specifying when a notice of termination is effective; such a clause may have assisted the employer in this case.
The simplest way for employers to ensure certainty on this point will continue to be giving notice to the employee personally, wherever possible.

Justin Costley

Author