HR documents that could be affected by Royal Mail strikes

What impact could postal strikes have on important documents relating to employees and the workplace? Should HR teams be making contingency plans?

With strike action still due from Royal Mail this month and previous strike days causing backlog issues there are expected to be significant delays to the UK postal service.

Whilst the impact on Christmas shopping for consumers is well documented, what about the impact that postal strikes could have on important documents relating to employees and the workplace? Should HR teams be making contingency plans?

Whilst many employers communicate via email others continue to send formal letters out in the post whether this be grievance, disciplinary or appeal outcomes, invitations to meetings, variations of contract or redundancy or TUPE consultation information. Such correspondence will invariably be delayed but what impact can that have?

Lesley Rennie, Principal Employment Law Solicitor at WorkNest said:  “Significantly, a delay in receipt of a dismissal letter may postpone the effective date of termination of employment.  That date is crucial for calculating an employee’s length of service, which determines their ability to bring an unfair dismissal claim and other entitlements, both statutory and contractual, and the date from which the time limits to lodge an Employment Tribunal claim start to run.

“A dismissal, or notice of a dismissal, communicated in writing is deemed to take effect when the employee has read the dismissal letter or has had the reasonable opportunity to do so.  Generally, a dismissal letter will be taken to have arrived in the normal course of the post and it is assumed that employees will open and read their post promptly once it has arrived.  However, this will not always be the case for instance, if the employee is on holiday, and in those circumstances, the date of the employer sending the dismissal letter and the date of the employee actually reading the letter and learning of their dismissal may vary considerably.

“As long as the employee hasn’t deliberately avoided opening the letter, their date of dismissal will be the date they read it, unless they had the opportunity to learn of its contents at an earlier point. During the postal strikes, employers can head off any potential delay in an employee becoming aware of their dismissal or any dubiety arising as to the date of dismissal by communicating face to face or verbally.

“Employees may also miss important meetings such as a disciplinary hearing or redundancy consultation if they do not receive the postal invitation.  As well as elongating the relevant process as the meeting will need to be rescheduled – the failure not being the employee’s fault – this wastes precious management time and resources.  Where information relevant to a consultation process, whether that be in relation to a TUPE transfer or collective redundancy situation, is being posted, employers may find that their timelines are impacted by any time-lag in employees, or employee representatives, receiving such information.

There are various ways in which employers can ensure that they can continue to effectively communicate during the postal strikes.  Hearings can be reconvened to deliver outcomes.  Letters can be sent electronically with delivery and read receipts.  A two-pronged approach of an email attaching the letter together with a hard copy sent via the “signed for” service to provide proof of receipt can be deployed. Alternative delivery services could be considered although the cost may prove prohibitive.  Finally, employers who are concerned that post sent in the last week may not have been received, can proactively contact the recipient employee to check that it has arrived and if not, can explain the contents over the phone.”

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