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Effective Date of Termination

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The recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Gisda Cyf v Barratt confirmed that the employee is required to have actual knowledge of termination in order for notice of dismissal to become effective. In a situation where an employee is informed of his/her dismissal by letter, it is the date on which the employee reads the dismissal letter and not in fact the date the letter was written, posted or delivered, which would be the effective date of termination ('EDT').

Miss Barratt attended a disciplinary hearing on 28 November. The hearing was adjourned and she was sent home and told to expect a letter regarding possible dismissal that Thursday. Miss Barratt subsequently went away. The dismissal letter arrived by recorded delivery on Thursday 30 November and was signed for by someone else. Whilst she was away, Miss Barratt had phoned home, but she did not inquire about the letter. Miss Barratt opened the letter on Monday 4 December, after returning home the previous night. She subsequently brought a claim against Gisda Cyf for unfair dismissal.

A preliminary issue arose with regards to the three month limitation date. If the EDT was the date Miss Barratt opened and read the letter, her claim would be in time. Alternatively, if the EDT was when the letter was written, posted or delivered, her claim would be out of time. The Court of Appeal found that the EDT was the date on which she read the letter and not the date on which it was written, posted or delivered.

The findings of the Court of Appeal will not pose a problem in the majority of summary dismissal cases as the decision to dismiss will be communicated face to face. However, in those situations where dismissal is confirmed by letter or e-mail, employers need to be aware that the EDT will be the date on which the employee reads the letter or e-mail.

Paul Grindley can be contacted on (0113) 399 3424 or paulgrindley@keeblehawson.co.uk.

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