UK termination notices apply only when staff read them, rules Supreme Court UK termination notices apply only when staff read them, rules Supreme Court

UK termination notices apply only when staff read them, rules Supreme Court
08 May 2018

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that a termination notice only comes into effect when an employee actually reads it.

The ruling was made after the Court found in favour of Sandi Haywood, a National Health Service (NHS) worker whose managers notified her that her role was redundant while she was on holiday. The case centred on the timing of her dismissal and whether the official notice fell before or after her 50th birthday.

According to People Management, the decision could trigger a need to change all employment contracts in the UK. It means that, in the absence of an express clause outlining when notice must be given and have taken effect, the assumption will be made that it came into force when the relevant documentation was received and read by the employee, providing them with a reasonable length of time to do so.

Haywood was made redundant by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She had worked for the NHS for more than 30 years as an associate director of business development for Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts. Her contract entitled her to a minimum 12-week notice period but failed to say how that notice should be communicated.

On 13 April 2011, Haywood was told that her role was at risk of redundancy following the merger of two NHS bodies. She accepted the situation but requested that a final decision on her status should not be made in her absence and explained that she would be on holiday from 19 April – a holiday the Trust knew about and had approved.

But on 20 April, the Trust sent a letter giving written notice of termination by recorded delivery to her home address. Haywood, on the other hand, did not return from holiday until 27 April, which is when she read the letter.

The Trust argued that notice was effectively communicated on 20 April, which resulted in her 12-week notice period expiring before her 50th birthday on 20 July. This situation would have meant she received a reduced pension.

But the High Court and the Court of Appeal upheld Haywood's case that the notice period only commenced on 27 April and ruled that the effective date was when the employee read the letter giving notice. The Supreme Court agreed.

The ruling is important for both employers and employees as a termination date can be decisive in determining an employee’s entitlement to a bonus or other contractual payment, insurance and employee benefits, or the statutory right to claim unfair dismissal and/or redundancy pay, and increased pension rights.

 Emma

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that a termination notice only comes into effect when an employee actually reads it.

The ruling was made after the Court found in favour of Sandi Haywood, a National Health Service (NHS) worker whose managers notified her that her role was redundant while she was on holiday. The case centred on the timing of her dismissal and whether the official notice fell before or after her 50th birthday.

According to People Management, the decision could trigger a need to change all employment contracts in the UK. It means that, in the absence of an express clause outlining when notice must be given and have taken effect, the assumption will be made that it came into force when the relevant documentation was received and read by the employee, providing them with a reasonable length of time to do so.

Haywood was made redundant by Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. She had worked for the NHS for more than 30 years as an associate director of business development for Newcastle and North Tyneside Primary Care Trusts. Her contract entitled her to a minimum 12-week notice period but failed to say how that notice should be communicated.

On 13 April 2011, Haywood was told that her role was at risk of redundancy following the merger of two NHS bodies. She accepted the situation but requested that a final decision on her status should not be made in her absence and explained that she would be on holiday from 19 April – a holiday the Trust knew about and had approved.

But on 20 April, the Trust sent a letter giving written notice of termination by recorded delivery to her home address. Haywood, on the other hand, did not return from holiday until 27 April, which is when she read the letter.

The Trust argued that notice was effectively communicated on 20 April, which resulted in her 12-week notice period expiring before her 50th birthday on 20 July. This situation would have meant she received a reduced pension.

But the High Court and the Court of Appeal upheld Haywood's case that the notice period only commenced on 27 April and ruled that the effective date was when the employee read the letter giving notice. The Supreme Court agreed.

The ruling is important for both employers and employees as a termination date can be decisive in determining an employee’s entitlement to a bonus or other contractual payment, insurance and employee benefits, or the statutory right to claim unfair dismissal and/or redundancy pay, and increased pension rights.

 Emma

Emma Woollacott is a freelance business journalist. Her work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Guardian, the Times, Forbes and the BBC.

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