The Team

You're Fired! But from when?
You're Fired! But from when?
In April, the UK Supreme Court clarified a long-standing anomaly in employment law. The question they were faced with was when does an employee's notice period start when they are dismissed from their employment. The employer insisted this was when the dismissal notice was sent out whilst the employee insisted it was when the notice was actually received and read.

The case concerned the dismissal of a Mrs Haywood who had, for many years, been employed by various departments in the NHS. Her employment commenced on 1st November 2008. On 1st April 2011 her employment was transferred to Newcastle-upon-Tyne NHS Foundation Trust (the Trust). She continued to be employed under the same terms and conditions of contract she had enjoyed since she started her employment, part of which contained a clause stating that the minimum period of notice to be given by one to the other was 12 weeks.

Shortly after her transfer, the Trust identified Mrs Haywood's position as redundant. Both parties were aware that if Mrs Haywood's employment was terminated on or after her 50th birthday on 20th July 2011, she would be entitled to claim a reduced early retirement pension. If her employment was terminated before her 50th birthday she would not be entitled to that benefit. 

A meeting to discuss Mrs Haywood's possible redundancy was held on 13th April 2011. At that meeting Mrs Haywood informed the Trust that she had booked to go two weeks holiday to Egypt starting on Monday, 18th April 2011 and that she would not return to work until after the May Bank Holiday weekend on 3rd May 2011. These holiday dates had been recorded in the Trust's records. Mrs Haywood asked that no decision be made on her redundancy whilst she was on holiday.

However, on 20th April 2011 the Trust decided to proceed with the dismissal and issued notice to that effect by email to Mrs Haywood's husband's email address, by recorded delivery mail and by first class post. The Trust sought to recall the email notice it had sent on the same day they dispatched it so that, effectively, left two methods of notice of dismissal for consideration. In the Appeal to the Supreme Court it was agreed that the relevant notice of dismissal was the letter sent by recorded delivery.

The crucial date in these proceedings was 27th April 2011. The reason for that was that any notice given on or after that date would expire on or after Mrs Haywood's 50th birthday whilst any notice given before that date would not. 

Mrs Haywood and her husband were out of the country on holiday in Egypt between 19th and 27th April 2011. Mr Haywood's father had been looking after the house in their absence and on 26th April 2011 he found the recorded delivery that had been posted through the letterbox relating to the notice of dismissal. He went to the post office to collect the recorded delivery letter on 26th April 2011 and left it for Mrs Haywood to read on her return from holiday. She arrived back from holiday in the early hours of 27th April 2011 and read the letter sometime later that day.

Mrs Haywood made various employment tribunal claims and eventually her case ended up in the High Court. The Trust then appealed the High Court decision to the Supreme Court. Mrs Haywood claimed her 12 weeks' notice did not commence until 27th April 2011 and that meant her dismissal would not be until 20th July 2011, the date of her 50th birthday and that would mean she would be entitled to her early retirement pension.

The Supreme Court, by a majority of three to two dismissed the Trust's appeal and agreed that the notice period did not start until Mrs Haywood had received and read the dismissal notice on 27th April 2011 when she returned to the UK from her holiday.

You can view Lady Hale delivering the Supreme Court judgement by clicking here. To read the judgement in full, please click here.