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Employment Law Case Update: Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood
- AuthorEmployment Team
In the case of Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood, Ms Haywood was employed by Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust. On the 1 April 2011 she was notified as being at risk of redundancy. During a consultation meeting about the redundancy, Ms Haywood informed the Trust she’d be on annual leave between 19 April and 3 May 2011, holidaying in Egypt.
On 20 April the trust sent letters to Ms Haywood confirming her redundancy and giving notice to terminate her employment. The notice period was 12 weeks, meaning her employment was to be terminated on 15 July 2011. Three letters in total were sent to Ms Haywood:-
- By recorded delivery to her home address. As Ms Haywood was in Egypt a delivery slip was left at her house. Ms Haywood’s father in law collected the letter from the post office and left it at her home on the 26th April.
- Another letter sent by ordinary post.
- Further letter sent by email to Ms Haywood’s husband’s email account. Mr Haywood read this email on 27 April.
The issue of this case revolved around when her employment terminated. Ms Haywood’s 50th birthday fell on 20 July 2011; if her employment ended before that date she would receive a lower pension than if her employment ended after her 50th birthday. Notice of termination needed to have been given by 26 April for the lower pension to be payable.
The high court decided that the notice of termination was only effective once communicated to Ms Haywood. This would have to be when Ms Haywood actually read the letter on 27 April once returned from her holiday. Therefore her 50th birthday had passed and she was entitled to the higher pension benefit.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the trust’s appeal, concluding that in the absence of an express term in an employment contract, if notice of termination is sent by post then it must be received by the employee to be effective. It cannot be implied to have taken effect on a particular date. The letter sent to Ms Haywood’s husband’s email account was not effective either, due to Ms Haywood not having given permission for communication to be sent to that address.
This case shows that the notice will not necessarily be effective until it is read and received by the employee. This does create uncertainty. An employer can ensure certainty by communicating notice with the employee in person. This could be at a final consultation meeting or disciplinary where the letter is handed over which contains the notice. Another option would be to contact the employee by telephone, inform them of the notice verbally and confirm a follow up letter is being sent.
This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice. All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.