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Lovewell Blake’s HR team talk about when a notice of termination takes effect

When does a notice of termination take effect?

By: Helen Busfield, HR Team Date: 6 June 2018
Category: Article,HR

Once a decision to serve notice has been made, it is important for both an employer and employee to understand when that notice will end.

A recent case in the High Court looked at some of the issues surrounding this topic. In April 2011 Mrs Haywood was notified that she was at risk of redundancy by her employer, Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust. The key issue in this case was whether or not the end of Mrs Haywood’s notice period fell before or after her 50th birthday, which was 20 July 2011. If it finished after her birthday she would be entitled to a higher pension than if her notice period expired on or before 20 July 2011.

Case facts:
  • Mrs Haywood’s contract of employment did not stipulate when notice given under the contract would be deemed to be received.
  • The Trust issued a written notice of dismissal by recorded delivery.
  • Mrs Haywood was away when the letter was sent on 20 April 2011 and read it on her return home on 27 April 2011.
  • Notice of termination needed to have been given by 26 April 2011 in order for the lower pension to be payable.

The High Court found that in the absence of an express term, the notice was only effective once Mrs Haywood had actually read the letter of dismissal, so that the contents were communicated to her. This was on 27 April 2011, upon her return from holiday, and therefore Mrs Haywood was entitled to an enhanced pension. This finding was based on the High Court’s construction of the wording of her contract which set out the length of the notice period.

This case serves as a reminder of the importance of express contractual provisions to provide both the employer and employee clarity when issuing notice of termination of an employment contract, particularly where the date of termination is critical.

When issuing a notice of termination it is best, where possible, to give notice in person or, if this is not possible, contact the employee by telephone to issue notice verbally and state that a letter confirming the notice of termination is being sent to them. If giving notice by email, set the email with a delivery and read receipt notifications and ask the employee to acknowledge receipt.

Contact our HR team for further advice on reviewing and updating contracts of employment to include specific express terms.
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