When does notice of termination of employment take effect?
The Supreme Court held in the case of Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood that where an employment contract is silent on when notice is deemed to be given, notice of termination will only be effective when it comes to the attention and is read by the employee (or where the employee has had a reasonable opportunity to read) and not when delivered to the employee’s address in the ordinary course of post or otherwise.
On 27 April 2011, Ms Haywood received notice of redundancy one week after it was sent by her employer (20 April 2011). This significance of this date was that Ms Haywood turned 50 on 20 July 2011 and so would be entitled to a significantly more generous pension if her dismissal by reason of redundancy took affect after this time. Ms Haywood was entitled to 12 weeks’ notice but her contract of employment was silent on when notice of termination would take effect.
Notice was deemed to be effective on 27 April 2017, the day on which it was read by the employee on her return from a holiday abroad and so the more advantageous benefits were payable.
Following on from this decision, when the timing of a termination is crucial and contracts are silent on the point, employers should ensure that notice of termination is given in good time and where possible, in person, to be followed up in writing confirming the decision.