In April 2011, Mrs Haywood was told she was at risk of redundancy. She had a 12 week notice period, but her employment contract didn’t say how that notice was to be given or when it would take effect. On 19 April 2011, Mrs Haywood went on holiday and the next day her employer sent her a letter by recorded delivery and ordinary post giving her notice to terminate her employment. She read it on her return from holiday on 27 April.
If the notice took effect when she came back from holiday and read the letter, Mrs Haywood would have been 50 years’ old on the date her notice period ended and entitled to a more generous pension than if her notice period started to run when the letter was delivered.
The majority of Judges in the Supreme Court decided that where an employee’s contract doesn’t say how notice is to be given or when it takes effect, notice only starts to run when the letter giving notice is actually read by the employee (or he/she had a reasonable opportunity to read it). It does not take effect when the letter was actually delivered or would have been delivered in the ordinary course of the post. In Mrs Haywood’s case this meant her notice period did not start to run until 27 April, when she read the letter after she came back from her holiday and so she was entitled to a more generous pension.
Employers should check their employment contracts to see what (if anything) they say about how notice is to be given and when it takes effect, and keep this in mind when terminating employment. If their contracts don’t say anything about this, it may be a good idea to consider including wording.
Newcastle upon Tyne Hopsitals NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood