The Supreme Court has confirmed that the notice period for a redundant employee began on the date the employee had a reasonable opportunity to read the written notice of termination.
The case of Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood concerned an employee who had been made redundant, and her contract was silent on when notice was deemed to have been given; it simply set out the period of 12 weeks. Notice of termination of her employment was sent to her on 20 April 2011 by recorded delivery. The employee was away on holiday at the time the notice was sent, and she accordingly read it on her return, on 27 April. While she was away, her father in law had collected the letter from the Post Office, and delivered it to her house, on 26 April.
Whether the notice was deemed to be given on 27 April was of critical importance, as the date 12 weeks from 27 April was the employee’s 50th birthday, meaning she would be entitled to an early retirement pension. This would be considerably more lucrative than the pension she would have received had her employment terminated before her 50th birthday.
The Supreme Court confirmed it was only on 27 April 2011 that the letter came to the attention of the employee and she had a reasonable opportunity to read it. Her father in law could not be considered as acting as the employee’s agent in receiving the letter, so notice could not be deemed to have been given on the date he collected it. The employee was therefore entitled to the better pension.
Alex Payton comments:
“This case confirms the position that in the absence of a contractual provision setting out when notice is deemed to be given, notice will only be deemed to have been given on the date an employee had a reasonable opportunity to read the notice. Wherever possible, employers should try and give notice in person to ensure certainty.”