In the recent case of Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood, the importance of knowing when notice was deemed to be served on the other party was highlighted.

In that case, Ms Haywood was informed in April 2011 that she was at risk of redundancy. It is important to note that Ms Haywood was approaching her 50th birthday on 20th July 2011 and this would impact upon the amount she would be entitled to in terms of her pension.

It was agreed that she was entitled to 12 weeks’ notice, however, her contract was silent on the matter of how to actually give notice to terminate her contract. Ms Haywood’s employer sent her notice of termination via both the post and email (although the email was sent to her husband’s email address and she had not given the NHS Trust the authority to communicate with him on her behalf) on 20th April. Ms Haywood was on holiday between 19th April and 27th April and it was therefore ruled that she received her notice on 27th April upon her return, as this is when she was deemed to have read the notice. Importantly, by determining the date of notice as 27th April, this took Ms Haywood’s termination date past the 20th July and therefore she would be 50 years old by the time her contract came to an end with the result that she was entitled to a more generous pension.

As you can see, it turned out to be an expensive error.

A contract of employment can include express provisions to say how notice is served and when notice is deemed to be effective but our advice to clients is that any decision (whether this be a disciplinary sanction or termination of employment, for example) should be delivered verbally first as the decision is effective at that time. This should then be followed in writing to confirm the decision that was given and when it was effective from.

If you have any queries in relation to serving notice for any reason, please do not hesitate to speak to your HR Consultancy team.

Please note this article is for information only and does not constitute advice. To ensure you follow best practice (and, if applicable, do not compromise your insurance), you should contact the Alcumus HR Consultancy team before embarking on any of the views given above.