Employment contracts failure to detail when notice is given

The case of Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust v Haywood considered the matter of when the notice of termination takes effect if an employment contract is silent on when notice is deemed given.

In April 2011, Ms Haywood was told she was at risk of redundancy. She turned 50 on 20 July 2011 and redundancy after her 50th birthday would have entitled her to a considerably more generous pension than redundancy beforehand.

Ms Haywood was contractually entitled to be given 12 weeks’ notice, but her contract was silent about how notice was deemed given.

On 19 April 2011, Ms Haywood went on holiday. On 20 April, her employer sent notice of termination by recorded delivery and ordinary post. She read it on her return from holiday, on 27 April.

The Supreme Court case hinged on when notice of termination was deemed effective. If it was deemed effective when the termination notice was sent (i.e. before 27 April), she would have received the lower pension. If it was deemed effective at the time she read it, it would be much higher.

The Supreme Court held the notice was only deemed effective when it was read by the employee, or the employee had reasonable opportunity to read it. So, in this case it was not deemed effective until 27 April and, as a result, she was entitled to the higher pension.